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Iran slams UAE for hosting Bennett, says the Palestinians won’t forget

Amid rising regional tensions with Tehran, foreign ministry spokesman blasts Emirati ‘acceptance of the prime minister of the illegitimate regime’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sits with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi on December 12, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sits with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi on December 12, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Iran on Monday criticized the United Arab Emirates for hosting Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on the first official visit to the Gulf nation by an Israeli premier, saying that it was betrayal of the Palestinians.

Ahead of the one-day visit, Bennett’s office said his talks with Abu Dhabi’s powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other Emirati officials would focus on the shared threat posed by Iran.

“The acceptance of the prime minister of the illegitimate regime, which is the cause of insecurity, tension and incitement to war in the Arab and Islamic countries for more than 70 years, will be recorded in the historical memory of the Palestinian people, the people of the region and all freedom fighters,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Khatibzadeh emphasized Tehran’s opposition to any normalization of ties with Israel, and said that the struggle must continue for the liberation of Jerusalem.

“The occupying regime of Quds is the first enemy of the Islamic world and the Arab countries, and no action in the direction of normalization can achieve the lofty ideal of [a state of] Palestine,” he said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem.

Bennett met Monday with bin Zayed for some four hours, with more than half of the time spent in one-on-one talks, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh during a press conference in Tehran, on February 22, 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

The trip came as Israel and its Gulf allies fret about Iran’s nuclear program. Talks between Iran and world powers on salvaging the nuclear deal stalled again last week.

In a statement before departing, Bennett thanked bin Zayed for “for the very warm hospitality” and said the two held “in-depth, sincere and significant talks.”

Israel and the UAE forged ties with the United States-brokered Abraham Accords last year, bringing over a decade of covert contacts into the open. Their relationship has flourished since then. Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco later also joined the Accords, and other countries were also rumored to be in talks, though none has come to fruition so far.

The accords were seen by some as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause, with the Palestinian Authority describing them as a “stab in the back.”

In June, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid officially inaugurated Israel’s embassy in the UAE. The Emirati embassy in Israel was inaugurated a month later.

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