'The Middle East is straightening out'

Trump says Kuwait may soon normalize ties with Israel

US president says Kuwaitis ‘excited’ about agreements with UAE, Bahrain, reiterates claim that ‘seven or eight’ Arab states want to sign deals with Jerusalem

US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, September 18, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, September 18, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

US President Donald Trump said Friday, after meeting with the son of Kuwait’s ruling emir, that the country will likely normalize relations with Israel in the near future, following the diplomatic move made by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday.

The Kuwaitis “are so excited that we signed the first two countries and I think they’ll end up fairly quickly being a part of it,” Trump said at a White House press briefing after he bestowed a top honor on Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, which his eldest son accepted on his behalf.

Trump reiterated his claim that a number of Arab states were eager to ink deals with Israel following the historic accords with the UAE and Bahrain.

“I have, I would say, seven or eight countries that want to be a part of it,” Trump said. “Nobody thought this would happen and not only is it happening, it’s happening rather easily.”

“I had two calls this morning with countries that want to know, ‘When can we go into the deal?’ It’s not that we’re giving them anything. They want security, they want peace, and they’re really tired of fighting,” Trump said.

He acknowledged that he had only discussed the issue “very briefly” with the visiting Kuwaiti sheikh before adding that the “whole thing is now a beautiful puzzle that’s coming together nicely. The Middle East is straightening out with all that’s happening.”

Last month, unnamed senior Kuwaiti officials rejected the possibility of normalizing ties with Israel, telling the local al-Qabas newspaper that despite warming ties between the Gulf states and Jerusalem, it had no interest in changing its longstanding regional policies.

Trump on Friday awarded the Legion of Merit on Al Sabah, who has played a central role in resolving a yearslong four-nation boycott of Qatar and is now ill and receiving treatment in the US, the White House said.

The foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain signed the so-called Abraham Accords in a White House ceremony with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. The only Arab states Israel previously had official ties with were Egypt and Jordan.

The agreements do not address the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the UAE, Bahrain and other Arab countries support the Palestinians, the Trump administration has persuaded the two countries not to let that conflict keep them from having normal relations with Israel.

Numerous Arab states have been named as potential candidates to follow the UAE and Bahrain in agreeing to establish ties with Israel, including Morocco, Sudan and Oman.

In this March 31, 2019 file photo, Kuwait’s ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, attends the opening of the 30th Arab Summit, in Tunis, Tunisia. (Fethi Belaid/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia meanwhile has remained non-committal, reiterating its support for the Arab Peace Initiative, a Saudi-backed proposal from 2002 that promises Israel full diplomatic ties with the entire Muslim world in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines.

Qatar’s ambassador to the US said on Wednesday that his nation, which is located in the Gulf but frequently at odds with its neighbors, has no problem normalizing relations with Israel, but will not do so before a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is reached.

Trump said after Tuesday’s signing ceremony that he expected “seven or eight or nine” more countries to normalize ties with Israel, including Saudi Arabia.

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