Israeli annexation talk ‘must stop,’ senior UAE official says
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Israeli annexation talk ‘must stop,’ senior UAE official says

Minister of state, a proponent of Arab-Israeli normalization, says any unilateral move by Jerusalem would constitute a ‘serious setback for the peace process’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Anwar Gargash, the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, at the UAE Security Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Anwar Gargash, the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, at the UAE Security Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

A senior official from the United Arab Emirates on Monday urged Israel to desist from advancing its announced plan to unilaterally annex large parts of the West Bank, reiterating his country’s vehement opposition to the move.

“Continued Israeli talk of annexing Palestinian lands must stop,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash wrote in English on his Twitter account.

“Any unilateral Israeli move will be a serious setback for the peace process, undermine Palestinian self determination & constitute a rejection of the international & Arab consensus towards stability & peace,” he added.

Gargash, a member of the UAE’s federal cabinet, is known to be one of the Gulf officials most open to normalization with Israel. In March 2019, he publicly called for a “strategic shift” in Israel-Arab ties, saying the Arab world’s decades-old decision to boycott the Jewish state had been a mistake.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks has repeatedly vowed to advance his plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and all settlements across the West Bank in accordance with the US administration’s Middle East peace plan.

According to the coalition agreement between his Likud party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White slate, the annexation plan can be brought to a vote as soon as July 1, though Likud minister Ze’ev Elkin said Sunday that a delay of several days or weeks is to be expected.

Like most of the international community, the UAE has been vocally opposed to annexation.

UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, center, shares a light moment with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh after the opening session of the Arab Summit in Riyadh, March 28, 2007. (AP Photo/Awad Awad, Pool)

“This unilateral step is illegal, undermines chances for peace and contradicts all efforts made by the international community to reach a lasting political solution in accordance with relevant international resolutions,” UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said on May 10.

In the statement, carried by the state-owned Emirates News Agency, Al Nahyan explicitly dismissed Netanyahu’s often-made claim that the Arab world would ultimately accept annexation.

Such suggestions “contradict the reality of the Arab position, as the Arab consensus is declared and fixed in the decisions issued by the League of Arab States and confirmed in many Arab ministerial meetings,” the UAE’s top diplomat affirmed at the time.

“His Highness affirmed that the path of the peace process in the Middle East, which we all aspire to, is clear and known and established by the international principles agreed upon to resolve the Palestinian issue and end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories,” his statement went on.

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