Senior UAE official: We got US assurances annexation won’t happen
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Senior UAE official: We got US assurances annexation won’t happen

As Israeli team departs at end of historic visit, Emirati Foreign Ministry’s policy director says nation hasn’t backed down ‘one millimeter’ from support of Palestinians

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

National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat meets with his counterpart, UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, US Senior Presidential Advisor Jared Kushner and US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien, and other officials, in the UAE National Security Advisor's palace in Abu Dhabi, August 31, 2020. (Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)
National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat meets with his counterpart, UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, US Senior Presidential Advisor Jared Kushner and US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien, and other officials, in the UAE National Security Advisor's palace in Abu Dhabi, August 31, 2020. (Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — As an Israeli delegation prepared to depart the United Arab Emirates Tuesday after completing a first official visit, a senior Emirati official said that his government had received “assurances” that Israel will not advance its plan to annex large parts of the West Bank.

“We cannot speculate on future Israeli actions. We have assurances from the US on this, and through our trilateral dialogue,” Jamal al-Musharakh, the director of the Emirati Foreign Ministry’s policy planning department, told Israel-based reporters at a briefing at Abu Dhabi airport, on the matter of annexation.

Asked if the normalization with Israel would fall apart if Israel were to annex in a few months, he said that it would not. However, the UAE’s Foreign Ministry later claimed he had been misquoted (although Israeli reporters heard him clearly) and clarified that its position was that the suspension of annexation was essential to the normalization process.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the plan will still be carried out.

Al-Musharakh stressed that the “halting of annexation was a prerequisite” to the normalization deal announced last month.

Jamal al-Musharakh, director of the Emirati Foreign Ministry’s policy planning department, in video April 7, 2020 (Screen grab)

“We remain with the Arab consensus and Arab resolutions,” he told The Times of Israel in response to a question on Abu Dhabi’s position on the Arab Peace Initiative, which offered Israel full normalization with the entire Muslim world after a peace agreement is reached with the Palestinians based on the 1967 lines.

“What we did was halt the annexation. The ultimate end solution is to find a sustainable solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” al-Musharakh went on.

“We have not backed down one step, or one millimeter, from our position” in support of the Palestinian cause, he added.

Al-Musharakh also rejected the Iranian supreme leader’s condemnation of Abu Dhabi’s normalization with Israel, hailing this week’s summit in which Israelis and UAE officials discussed the formal establishment of diplomatic relations as a historic step on the path to a more peaceful region.

“The path to peace and prosperity is not paved with… hate speech,” al-Musharakh said. “That kind of narrative is counterproductive to the vision of looking forward to creating a better future for the region.”

Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday accused the United Arab Emirates of betraying the Muslim world and the Palestinians with its agreement to normalize relations with Israel, saying it was a “stain” on the country.

A picture taken on August 31, 2020, shows the El Al’s airliner, which is carrying a US-Israeli delegation to the UAE following a normalization accord, landing on the tarmac at the Abu Dhabi airport, in the first-ever passenger flight from Israel to the UAE. (Karim SAHIB / AFP)

Speaking to reporters at the VIP lounge of the airport shortly before El Al flight 972 was scheduled to take the Israeli delegation back to Tel Aviv, al-Musharakh stressed the progress that had been made in bilateral ties since the plane landed in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

“If I had to summarize the last couple of days, two words would come to mind: historic, and hopeful,” he said. The bilateral working groups discussing areas such as mutual trade and cooperation in health and technology were “very promising,” he added.

“The path towards peace and prosperity is through cooperation. Stability in the region is essential. There is a large demographic of youth that needs hope, a way forward. This is not only beneficial for our two countries, but for the wider region.”

He could not say when embassies would be opened or when direct flights would be inaugurated. “We want it to happen sooner rather than later,” he said.

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