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UAE, Bahrain back Arab Peace Initiative after spurning it to ally with Israel

Proposal endorsed by Arab League had resolved to only establish ties with Israel after a two-state solution; Kushner says agreements are ‘beginning of end to Israel-Arab conflict’

A demonstrator walks on pictures laid out on the ground depicting X-marks over the faces of Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, during a protest against the United Arab Emirates' and Bahrain's decisions to normalize relations with Israel, in Gaza City on September 15, 2020. (Mohammed ABED / AFP)
A demonstrator walks on pictures laid out on the ground depicting X-marks over the faces of Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, during a protest against the United Arab Emirates' and Bahrain's decisions to normalize relations with Israel, in Gaza City on September 15, 2020. (Mohammed ABED / AFP)

WASHINGTON — Diplomats from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates insisted Tuesday that their countries remained committed to the Arab Peace Initiative, hours before they were set to sign normalization agreements with Israel that would appear to undermine that 2002 accord.

“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,” Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, told reporters during an online briefing.

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

Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani said in an interview with the London-based Arabic-language Asharq Al-Awsat that the normalization agreement with Jerusalem “is in line with King Hamad’s vision to spread the culture of peace in the world. It is also in line with his directives to intensify efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict according to the [Arab] peace initiative.”

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.

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)

Palestinians have described the decisions by the Gulf states to establish ties with Israel despite the absence of a two-state solution as an abandonment of the initiative.

Both countries have attempted to walk a tightrope of moving toward Israel publicly while also appearing to remain committed to the Palestinian cause.

“Bahrain always stresses its firm and constant position toward the right of the fraternal Palestinian people, which are at the top of its priorities. The Palestinian people must obtain their complete legitimate rights,” Al Zayani said.

The comments came hours before the White House was scheduled to host a ceremony marking the signing of accords between Israel and Bahrain and Israel and the UAE, marking a major opening for Israel in the Persian Gulf.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani (R) hosts US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Manama on August 25, 2020. (Twitter)

Al-Zayani will be joined at the White House by Emirati counterpart UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who will be signing what an Israeli official termed Monday as a “peace treaty” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their two countries agreed to normalize ties.

Israel has refused to publish the texts of the so-called peace treaty and of the “declaration of peace” set to be signed with Bahrain, as well as a document termed the Abraham Accords, leading to speculation about what may be contained within.

Anwar Gargash, UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, indicated Tuesday that the Israel-UAE agreement will mention the two-state solution, albeit indirectly.

In a press briefing, he said that the treaty “does reference two-states through references to previous agreements signed.”

Speaking on the “Today Show,” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner described the day’s ceremony as “the beginning of the end of the Israel-Arab conflict.

“A lot of people when President Trump was elected said that he was going to bring war and chaos, but what he’s bringing today is peace,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer in Washington DC on September 14, a day before the Abraham Accords signing ceremony at the White House (Avi Ohayon / GPO)

The Tuesday ceremony will take place on the White House South Lawn and will be attended by several hundred people, a senior Trump official said Monday, adding that senior congressional Democrats were invited and will “hopefully” attend.

Guests will be encouraged to wear masks and maintain social distance, but face coverings will not be required, the official said.

Prior to the signing event, which will start at 12 p.m. (7 p.m. in Israel), Netanyahu and Trump will hold a bilateral meeting at the White House, and a four-way meeting with the Emirati and Bahraini foreign ministers is set to take place shortly afterwards. Trump will also meet separately with the two Gulf states’ foreign ministers.

Trump will sign the two bilateral agreements as a “witness,” or “observer,” then the three representatives will sign a separate, joint peace statement the US official referred to as the “Abraham Accords” document.

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