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Israel to host Blinken and FMs of UAE, Morocco and Bahrain in ‘historic summit’

First in-person gathering of each Abraham Accords country’s top diplomat will be held on Sunday and Monday, as US secretary of state visits Jewish state, Foreign Ministry says

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

(From left to right): Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a press conference in Washington, DC on October 13, 2021. (GPO)
(From left to right): Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a press conference in Washington, DC on October 13, 2021. (GPO)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will host his counterparts from the US, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco for a “historic diplomatic summit” next week, the Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The summit will take place on Sunday and Monday, according to its statement, which said more details would follow.

The announcement came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced his visit to Israel and the West Bank, a move that had taken some analysts by surprise as the top US diplomat had visited less than a year ago and is not expected to announce a major diplomatic initiative.

Blinken will be joined by the UAE’s Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bahrain’s Abdullatif bin Rashid Al- Zayani and Morocco’s Nasser Bourita in the latest gathering that would likely not have taken place if not for the signing of the Abraham Accords. The 2020 agreements saw Israel normalize ties with the three Arab countries in a matter of months in deals brokered by the Trump administration.

Israel has made strengthening the accords a top priority, scheduling regular diplomatic meetings to member countries. It also is looking to expand the agreements to include other countries as well, though that is likely to prove a tall task, given that governments most interested in joining would likely have done so while former president Donald Trump was still in office and the incentives the US was willing to offer were more substantial.

US President Joe Biden, whose administration has expressed weariness over Trump’s decision to sell F-35 fighter jets to the UAE and recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region as part of the Abraham Accords, has focused largely on strengthening existing agreements.

Initial desires to finalize the normalization deal between Israel and Sudan have been complicated due to the military coup that spiraled the latter country further into crisis late last year.

(Clockwise from top left) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, UAE diplomatic adviser Anwar Gargash, Bahrain’s Ambassador to the US Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashid al-Khalifa and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in a virtual event marking the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords on September 17, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Sunday’s meeting of foreign ministers will take place less than a week after Bennett traveled to the Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh for the first-ever trilateral summit with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan — another development likely made possible by the Abraham Accords.

The State Department said Thursday that Blinken will use his trip to coordinate with US allies on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “Iran’s destabilizing activities,” the Abraham Accords, and efforts to improve Israeli-Palestinian ties.

Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and President Isaac Herzog in Israel, and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas along with representatives from Palestinian civil society in Ramallah.

Unlike the previous administration, which largely separated the Abraham Accords from Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, Biden officials repeatedly state that the normalization deals cannot be a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace and express a desire to leverage the agreements to coax Israel into taking steps that pave the way toward Palestinian statehood, or at the very least keep such a prospect alive.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides hosts his Emirati, Bahraini and Moroccan counterparts for the Ambassadorial Abraham Accords Working Group’s inaugural meeting on January 26, 2022. (US Embassy in Israel)

Also next week, the UAE will host a soccer match featuring players from Abraham Accords signatory countries, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides announced on Thursday.

That gathering will take place on Tuesday at the Expo 2020 and will also feature a dinner prepared by top chefs from Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco.

“The dinner will be followed by a signing ceremony for the Culture and Sport for Peace Joint Declaration between the Abraham Accords countries, which will set the stage for future collaborations,” the US Embassy in Israel said in a statement.

The PA has grown increasingly frustrated with the Biden administration, which on the one hand has renewed relations and aid to the Palestinians, but on the other has largely accepted the Israeli stance that the sides are not ready for a diplomatic initiative. Facing an ever-intensifying financial crisis, officials in Ramallah say they don’t have the luxury of waiting things out.

Abbas is also slated to host Jordan’s King Abdullah next week, raising speculation that Blinken’s stop in Ramallah may coincide with the Hashemite monarch’s.

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