Israel seeking to expand ties with Arab states

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen visits Vienna, where Austria says it will help Israel build on Abraham Accords

Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is on a multi-stop trip to Europe. AFP
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Israel is optimistic of expanding ties with more Arab and Muslim countries, its Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on a visit to Vienna on Thursday.

Austria said it would help Israel build on the Abraham Accords that established relations with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco in 2020.

Mr Cohen said Israel had common interests with Saudi Arabia despite signs of detente between the kingdom and Iran.

His talks with Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna were the latest leg of a multi-stop trip to Europe.

The two men also discussed Ukraine and the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Israel's far right government and its military have faced heavy criticism for their response to Palestinian protests and the roll-out of illegal settlements.

Israel has invited Austria to be an observer in a working group in the Abraham Accords, Mr Cohen said.

The region “changed dramatically three years ago when we signed the Abraham Accords” that increased prosperity and stability in the Middle East, he said.

Asked about Saudi-Iran ties, Mr Cohen said Israel and Saudi Arabia had a “mutual regional interest” in ensuring stability, preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and working together economically.

“I’m very optimistic that we will be able to expand our relations with more Arab and Muslim countries,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed. Courtesy MOFAIC

Mr Schallenberg said Austria was “one of the staunchest and most vocal supporters” of the accords.

“We believe this is a policy that has to be continued, you can count on our support in this respect,” he told Mr Cohen.

“As we have discussed, we will also contribute in reaching out to countries to normalise their relations with Israel – in the form of Abraham Accords or in other forms.”

Mr Schallenberg also called for restraint from both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict, after what he called “recent provocations and steps undermining a possible political horizon”.

The US-brokered Abraham Accords established full diplomatic relations in 2020 between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco.

They marked the first new Arab-Israeli ties since peace treaties signed by Egypt in 1979 and Jordan and 1994.

The UAE opened an embassy in Tel Aviv in 2021 and last month invited Israeli delegates to the Cop28 climate summit.

Updated: June 01, 2023, 11:40 AM