The peace accord between the UAE and Israel has given the EU and the international community the opportunity to press the case for an end to the Middle East’s most intractable conflict, the UAE’s ambassador to the EU has said.
Ambassador Mohamed Abushahab told The National the accord had removed a "ticking time bomb" from proceedings and given the parties space by granting assurances Israel would freeze plans for annexation of the West Bank.
On Thursday, Israel and the UAE said they would begin to establish full diplomatic relations in a US-brokered deal that required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied land that is sought by the Palestinians for an independent state.
Mr Abushahab said the UAE had seen an opportunity to extend the window for peace while also agreeing to an accord which was mutually beneficial to both Israel and the Emirates.
“The issue of annexation for us is one that kills the chances for a two-state solution. This is something that we have been very concerned about, the Arab world has been very concerned about and our European partners,” he said.
“We feel that this is something that is really critical, really important to save the prospects for a return to the negotiations.”
The UAE ambassador to Brussels explained that the Emirates had helped the EU by providing a window for a negotiation between the two principal parties to the conflict. He said a two-state solution to the decades-long hostilities was the “only viable solution”.
“I think the Europeans do have plenty of leverage and we should use all the political leverage that we have,” Mr Abushahab said.
“We've tried not having contact with the Israelis for decades now. And it hasn't yielded the results that we had all hoped for. So now, we're thinking that we can still have these differences with Israel on the Palestinian question, political differences, but it doesn't mean that we can't speak,” he explained.
In European foreign policy circles, experts had argued that European capitals needed to seize the initiative in the Middle East peace process after Washington essentially gave the green light to Israel to complete a de jure annexation of the West Bank.
The Israeli designs, repeatedly promised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both on the campaign trail and once he was re-elected to office earlier this year, looked likely to end the long-held goal of a two-state solution.
Following the agreement between the UAE and Israel, European nations have started making renewed overtures to Palestinian leadership on the possibility of peace.
Writing on Twitter on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the resumption of peace negotiations remain a priority to reach a just solution in the Middle East.
Mr Macron said he had spoken with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA). "I told him of my determination to work for peace in the Middle East," the French president said.
Mr Abushahab welcomed Mr Macron’s efforts to engage with both sides of the conflict.
“We see Emmanuel Macron's overtures, reaching out to the president of the PA Mahmoud Abbas and encouraging [negotiations] to move forward,” the ambassador said.
“And we're encouraged by that. Of course, we'd like to see more of this from partners, not just in Europe, but all over the world.”