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Top UAE official: Peace treaty will only refer to two-state solution indirectly

Once anger over normalization with Jerusalem subsides, Palestinians will realize that UAE and Bahrain have more ‘leverage’ to pressure Israel into concessions, Anwar Gargash says

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)

The peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates will make indirect reference to the two-state solution, a senior UAE official said Tuesday, a few hours before the historic agreement was to be signed in Washington.

“It’s a preamble that emphasizes a basic stance and then it is really a bilateral agreement about two states — the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates,” Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, told reporters during an online briefing.

“It does reference the two-state [solution] through references to previous agreements that were signed. And you will see that, I think, clearly. And then it goes into areas of cooperation and so forth, and sort of frames the type of relations the two states strive for.”

At the same time, the senior diplomat stressed that his country has not diminished its support for the creation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“The UAE today has not changed our political position, it remains the same. That position is in support of Palestinian rights to a viable, independent state and East Jerusalem that is their capital,” he said.

“And our argument has always been that not communicating — the policy of the empty chair — has led to unfortunate realities on the ground. And by engaging… the Palestinians have more of a chance to realize what has been their national aspiration. We will be there to help them,” he said.

The Arab Peace Initiative remains the “cornerstone of our collective approach toward a two-state solution,” he added.

The flags of the US, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Bahrain seen on the side of a road in Netanya, September 14, 2020. (Flash90)

First adopted by the Arab League in 2002, the Arab Peace Initiative promises Israel full diplomatic relations with the entire Muslim world in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines.

Gargash expressed the hope that “once much of the anger to do with the polarization in the Arab world subsides,” the Palestinians will realize that Arab states that have diplomatic relations with Israel have “leverage” over it. Being better able to convince the Israelis “that a path forward needs compromise, a path forward needs a more rational approach” would actually serve Ramallah’s interest, he argued.

“I hope that this will bring a shift towards de-escalation in the region, it will bring a shift towards dialogue, communication, understanding that the polarization in the region has been disastrous really for the region and its population,” he said.

Gargash, who did not fly to Washington for the signing, said the peace treaty with Israel was a “historic” event that he hopes will turn the UAE into a “global player in terms of breaking taboos and walls.” He also hailed the economic potential of ties with Israel, predicting it will make the Emirates “more competitive” and more prosperous.

“Naturally, the signing of this deal doesn’t mean that the work is over. It is our job, here in the UAE, and in Israel and in US… to try and build what I would call a warm peace. A peace that will actually bring about the expected fruits, fruits of further stability and at the same time economic opportunity, cultural coexistence and tolerance,” he said.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)

Asked why it was the UAE’s foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed, and not the country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who would sign the agreement, Gargash referred to the latter’s character traits.

“He is a bold leader, but he is not necessarily one who would like to be in the limelight,” he said, noting that the leader, known as MBZ, hardly gives interviews. “We try our best to encourage him to speak publicly but we respect his personality,” Gargash said, adding that he wasn’t surprised that the crown prince sent his top diplomat to Washington rather than go himself.

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