'Extending the hand of peace': UAE and Israel sign historic accord

At White House ceremony, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani signed agreements with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

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The UAE and Israel on Tuesday signed a historic accord to normalise relations, followed by a similar signing by Bahrain, which completed its own peace deal with Israel, at the White House.

"We're here this afternoon to change the course of history," US President Donald Trump said at the start of the signing ceremony.

"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."

At the ceremony, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahrain's Foreign Minister Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani signed agreements with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mr Trump.

All four then signed the English, Arabic and Hebrew texts of the Abraham Accords, named after the patriarch of the world’s three major monotheistic religions.

"I stand here today to extend a hand of peace and receive a hand of peace," Sheikh Abdullah said.

"The search for peace is an innate principle yet principles are effectively realised when they are transformed into actions.

"Today, we are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East and a change that will send hope around the world.

"The region's youth are looking forward to taking part in this humanitarian moment … opening opportunities for those who love peace and prosperity and the future.

"Peace requires courage and shaping the future requires knowledge. The advancement of nations requires sincerity.

"We came to tell the world this is our approach. Peace is our guiding principle. Those who begin things in the right way will reap achievements."

At a meeting with Mr Trump before the ceremony, 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."

Historic moment when Abraham Accord was signed at White House

Historic moment when Abraham Accord was signed at White House

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.

Bahrain's Dr Al Zayani opened his address at the White House 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.

"For too long the Middle East has been set back by conflict and distrust, causing untold destruction and thwarting the potential of generations of our best and brightest young people," Dr Al Zayani said.

"Now I'm convinced we have the opportunity to change that."

Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas responded to the event saying: “There will never be peace in the Middle East without an end to Israel's occupation."

Sheikh Abdullah addressed Palestinians and expressed the UAE’s continued support for their cause.

“This accord will enable us to continue to stand by the Palestinian people and realise their hopes for an independent state within a stable and prosperous region,” he said.

“This accord builds upon previous peace agreements signed by Arab nations with the state of Israel. The aim of all these treaties is to work towards stability and sustainable development.”

President Trump thanks UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs for the historic peace accord

President Trump thanks  UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs for the historic peace accord

US ambassador to the UAE John Rakolta also touched on the need to engage with Palestinians after the deal, despite Mr Trump closing the Palestine Liberation Organisation's mission to the US, and said the events of Tuesday "end a conflict that has gone on far too long".

"Now it’s time for us to show the resolve, to show a warm peace," Mr Rakolta said.

"Enjoy this day and move on tomorrow to bring more countries into the fold, making sure to also bring the Palestinians into this.

"[Parties should] encourage them to come and negotiate, put their best ideas and arguments forward, be prepared to compromise, negotiate and reach a settlement, and move forward for the betterment of all the Palestinian people.

"I know we all feel very strongly about this and this is what we will be focusing on going forward."

Before the ceremony, in a discussion with Sheikh Abdullah, Mr Trump said he believed the Palestinian leadership would eventually sign on to the US-brokered peace agreements "at the right time".

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin described the signing as an event that broke down barriers between people.

"This is a true example of breaking down borders and overcoming divisions," Mr Rivlin tweeted before the ceremony.

“I hope and pray that this coming year will be a year of breaking down more barriers, working together to overcome shared challenges and advance mutual understanding, peace and co-operation in our region and around the world.”

The deals make the UAE and Bahrain the third and fourth Arab states to to normalise ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Sheikh Abdullah was joined by a large delegation from Abu Dhabi.

They included Abdulla bin Touq, Minister of Economy, and Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology.

Also there were Obaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs, Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation, and Omar Ghobash, UAE Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs and Public Diplomacy.

Then there were Yousef Al Otaiba, Minister and UAE ambassador to the US, Lana Nusseibeh, UAE permanent representative to the UN, and Ali Al Neyadi, Commissioner of Customs and Chairman of the Federal Customs Authority.

Representatives from Sudan and Oman also attended the ceremony at the White House.

Mr bin Touq promoted the economic benefits of the UAE-Israeli agreement.

"We have promising opportunities for co-operation in vital sectors that serve the two countries' future economic development agendas,” he said on Tuesday.

“These include medicines, energy, life sciences, food security, financial services, tourism and travel, in addition to the fields of space, defence, security, research and development."

Speaking to the Atlantic Council, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the key to striking the diplomatic agreements was common interests.

"The primary destabilising force in the Middle East was not the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but rather the threat posed by the extraterritorial ambitions of the clerical regime in Iran," Mr Pompeo said.