Anwar Gargash hails 'historic day' ahead of Abraham Accord signing

UAE official cautions against expecting strategic breakthrough but says agreement will give Abu Dhabi more international influence

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 3, 2020.  Federal Natinal Council meeting at the Al Khubeirah Garden.  Dr. Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs during the Tuesday meeting.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Haneen Dajani

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, on Tuesday hailed a "historic day" in the Middle East before the signing of the Abraham Accord with Israel at the White House.

Dr Gargash said in Abu Dhabi that the UAE was realistic that a strategic breakthrough in the region as far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might not be imminent, but that the accord served Palestinian interests.

He was speaking weeks after the UAE and Israel agreed to normalise relations in return for the halt to annexation of occupied Palestinian territories.

"This is a truly historic day," Dr Gargash said.

He said he expected the accord to make the UAE "more competitive and build a relationship with the state of Israel, and also make the the UAE more of a global player in terms of breaking taboos and walls".

"There is no reason why we cannot move faster and establish embassies and consulates very soon," Dr Gargash said, referring to the peace deals signed by Egypt and Jordan with Israel in 1978 and 1994.

He said the UAE would aim to forge agreements with Israel "at the cornerstone of economic co-operation".

Among them are agreements on double taxation, protection of investment, air services and "various memorandums of understandings on technology, health, agribusiness and so forth".

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, arrived in Washington on Sunday night with a high-level delegation.

US President Donald Trump will host the signing ceremony in the presence of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Dr Gargash said that while a strategic breakthrough "will not happen overnight", the UAE would have influence with Israel that would benefit the Palestinian cause.

"Political issues and differences need to be resolved but need not be obstacles towards building healthy bilateral relations," he said.

"Having communications will be good. This is not directed against anybody."

Dr Gargash expressed optimism for the region, saying that ultimately the Palestinians "would have to decide if they want us to help because they have to lead the way on that".

"We broke the psychological barrier and that was the most important thing," he said.

"Once you realise that what you have been doing for so many years has not been working, then everything else becomes more manageable. Not easier, but more manageable."

The signing ceremony comes almost 42 years to the day since the first Arab-Israeli peace deal.

Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin shook hands at the White House to conclude the Camp David Accords under Jimmy Carter’s supervision on September 17, 1978.

"Our leverage will not be necessary be bigger than the Egyptian or the Jordanian," Dr Gargash said.

"But I think it will be different. We are not shackled really by the history of conflict and wars and territorial issues."