“I stand here today to extend a hand of peace and receive a hand of peace.”
With those words, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, addressed a high-level audience of several hundred gathered on the south lawn of the White House to witness the historic signing of a peace accord between Israel and the UAE.
Last month, the US-brokered Abraham Accord was agreed to during a call between Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bahrain later agreed its own accord with Israel.
Sheikh Abdullah, the Bahraini Foreign Minister Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani and Mr Netanyahu were in Washington on Tuesday to formally sign documents paving the way for full normalisation of relations between Israel and the two Arab countries.
“We are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East, a change that will send hope around the world,” Sheikh Abdullah, who first spoke in English before switching to Arabic for much of his speech, said on Tuesday.
“We are witnessing today a new trend that will create a better path for the Middle East.”
The accord “will continue to have a positive impact, as we believe that its reverberations will be reflected on the entire region”, he said.
“This new vision, which is beginning to take shape as we meet today for the future of a region full of youthful energy, is not a slogan that we raise for political gain, as everyone looks forward to creating a more stable, prosperous, and secure future,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
He thanked Mr Netanyahu for halting the planned annexation of Palestinian territories, “a decision that reinforces our shared will to achieve a better future for generations to come”.
The accord, including a pledge to halt annexation in return for full relations between the UAE and Israel, enables the UAE “to continue to stand by the Palestinian people and realise their hopes for an independent state within a stable and prosperous region”.
It also “builds upon previous peace agreements signed by Arab nations” with Israel.
The deals signed on Tuesday make the UAE and Bahrain the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps to normalise ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
“In this difficult year when the world is suffering from the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Arab Emirates has reinforced its humanitarian commitments, established by our nation’s Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, who taught us that standing with others, regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation, is a humanitarian duty and a firm principle," Sheikh Abdullah said.
Attending the ceremony were senior US officials including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair and Fifa president Gianni Infantino were among the international guests. Officials from Oman, Egypt and Sudan were also present.
"We're here this afternoon to change the course of history," Mr Trump said.
"After decades of division and conflict we mark the dawn of a new Middle East thanks to the great courage of the leaders of these three countries."
Mr Netanyahu said he was grateful to Mr Trump.
"To all of Israel's friends in the Middle East, those who join us today and those who will join us tomorrow, I say 'as-Salam Alaikum', peace unto thee, shalom," he said.
Dr Al Zayani opened his address by saying it was a "moment of hope and opportunity for all the people of the Middle East, and in particular for the millions in our younger generations".
He said the agreement would enhance Bahrain's principles of coexistence and harmony, and that genuine co-operation was the most effective means to peace.
At a meeting with Mr Trump before the ceremony to sign accords with Israel, Sheikh Abdullah said: "Our region has suffered far too long.
"We want to show our people, the region and the world that there is good news."