US organizing regional peace summit with multiple Arab countries — report

Israeli daily says Pompeo’s Mideast tour aimed at garnering support for move; Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Sudan and Chad said to confirm participation, while Palestinians refuse

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem on August 24, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem on August 24, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The United States is planing a regional peace summit with several Arab states that will likely be held in the next few weeks in one of the Gulf sheikdoms, an Israeli newspaper reported Tuesday.

That reportedly is the purpose of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s current tour of the Middle East, which includes stops in several Arab countries rumored to be in line to follow the United Arab Emirates in normalizing ties with Israel.

The summit was reported by the Israel Hayom daily, generally regarded as a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The report cited an unnamed senior UAE diplomat who is involved in Pompeo’s talks with the various Arab states.

The report said the Americans have already received a promise in principle from Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Sudan, and Chad to send senior representatives to the summit.

The source was quoted as saying that before and during Pompeo’s visit to Israel, US officials told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior PA officials that Washington would be happy for the Palestinians to take part in the summit, and that Pompeo would like to hand Abbas an invitation in person in Ramallah.

However, Abbas and his aides “rejected the messages out of hand and even sent the message that Pompeo is not wanted in Ramallah,” according to the Emirati source.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas heads a leadership meeting at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 19, 2020. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool via AP)

“Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan haven’t yet answered whether they will send a delegation to the regional summit, if it indeed goes ahead in light of the Palestinian refusal,” the source was quoted as saying.

The source added, however, that there was a tacit agreement with those three countries for the summit to be held, and that they will send lower-ranking officials rather than senior ministers.

“The Palestinian position is very saddening,” the source was quoted as saying. “They were given an opportunity to deescalate the situation in the form of a respectful and fair invitation to take part in a regional peace conference, and they rejected it out of hand with no reasonable explanation.

“The Palestinians have to come to grips with the fact that the wheels of peace have started to turn in the region, and peace and normalization will come with or without the Palestinians even if they continue to be defiant.”

Israel and the UAE announced on August 13 that they were establishing full diplomatic relations, in a US-brokered deal that also required Israel to suspend its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

Israeli and United Arab Emirates flags line a road in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, on August 16, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Pompeo took off Tuesday on the first official direct flight between Israel — where he met Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi — and Sudan.

From there, he will travel to Bahrain, before traveling to Abu Dhabi for talks with Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on the Israel-UAE agreement and other regional issues, according to the State Department. Officials said stops in Oman and Qatar are also possible.

Pompeo will be followed to many of the same destinations later in the week by White House adviser Jared Kushner, diplomats said.

Neither Pompeo’s nor Kushner’s trips are expected to result in immediate  announcements of breakthroughs, but both are aimed at building on the success of the Israel-UAE agreement by finalizing at least one, and potentially more, normalization deals between Arab countries and Israel in the near future.

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