Emirati FM tells Lapid he welcomes Israel’s steps to calm tensions in Jerusalem

Day after UAE summoned Israeli ambassador for rebuke, foreign minister tells al Nahyan that nations must keep working to promote peace between Israel and Middle Eastern Arabs

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) welcomes his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan at Sde Boker in southern Israel, on March 27, 2022, ahead of the Negev Summit. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) welcomes his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan at Sde Boker in southern Israel, on March 27, 2022, ahead of the Negev Summit. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke with his Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan about increasing tensions on the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa complex, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

During the conversation, which took place Wednesday evening, the two foreign ministers discussed the difficulty of dealing with anti-Israel fake news in the Arab world and agreed to keep working together to promote religious tolerance and peace between Israel and Middle Eastern Arabs.

The Emirati foreign minister also “expressed his appreciation for Israeli efforts to calm the situation and expressed understanding for the on-the-ground difficulties that Israel faces,” according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement — in reference to the thwarting of the planned far-right march through Damascus Gate on Wednesday, and the closure of Temple Mount to Jewish visitors from Friday until the end of Ramadan.

“Sheikh Abdullah welcomed the Israeli government’s decision to halt the ‘Israeli Flags March’ from reaching the Bab al-Amud area, as well as to prevent non-Muslim visitors from entering the Al-Aqsa courtyards from Friday until the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan,” according to the Emirates News Agency.

“Our region needs stability and to work together in order to move forward in development along all paths so as to achieve the aspirations of our peoples for progress and prosperity,” the UAE foreign minister said.

Before ending by exchanging greetings for their respective Passover and Ramadan holidays, the counterparts also discussed the importance of bilateral relations and efforts to strengthen their ties.

The call came a day after the UAE summoned Israel’s ambassador to Abu Dhabi over the recent Jerusalem escalations, in the first such public rebuke since the two countries normalized relations a year and a half ago.

During that meeting, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy informed Ambassador Amir Hayek of Abu Dhabi’s “strong protest and denunciation of the events taking place in Jerusalem and [in] Al-Aqsa Mosque, including attacks on civilians and incursions into holy places that resulted in the injury of a number of civilians,” according to the official Emirati WAM news agency.

Palestinian rioters clash with Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound atop the Temple Mount, on April 15, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Hashemy was apparently referring to the conduct of Israel Police officers, who have entered the Temple Mount compound several times in recent days in order to quash Palestinian rioters.

He stressed the need for Israel to “immediately stop these events, provide full protection for worshipers, respect the right of Palestinians to practice their religious rights and halt any practices that violate the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” WAM reported, adding that the minister warned that escalations in Jerusalem threaten the stability of the entire region.

Israel has accused Arab leaders of boosting tensions by pushing Muslim claims regarding the Temple Mount and claiming Israeli attempts to break a delicate status quo there. Israel extended sovereignty to the Temple Mount and East Jerusalem after capturing the area from its Jordanian occupiers in the 1967 war, but allowed the Jordanian Waqf to continue to administer the Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, and barred Jews from praying there. The Palestinians seek the area as the capital of an independent state.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism as the site of the biblical temples. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest shrine in Islam.

On Tuesday, Emirati airlines also announced that they were canceling their planned participation in Israel’s annual Independence Day flyover.

Sources at Etihad told the Israel Airline Pilots Association that they will not be able to take part in the aerial display due to not having enough time to prepare, according to Army Radio, with senior officials confirming that the real reason was the clashes at the Temple Mount.

On Wednesday, a senior Israeli diplomatic official lamented the UAE’s response to the recent unrest, while predicting that there would not ultimately be any damage to the bilateral ties that were forged in 2020.

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