Rishi Sunak heaps praise on Abraham Accords and 'dividend of diplomacy'

British prime minister was speaking at a reception to mark the second anniversary of the accords

Rishi Sunak reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the Abraham Accords at a diplomatic reception to honour the agreement. Photo: Board of Deputies of British Jews
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The Abraham Accords represent one of the “greatest achievements in the long process of securing peace in the Middle East”, said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Mr Sunak made the comments at a reception to mark the second anniversary of the accords, which were signed in Washington by the UAE, Bahrain and Israel.

The event on Wednesday in the UK was also attended by Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation; Zayed Alzayani, Bahrain’s Minister of Industry and Commerce; and ambassadors from the Emirates, Israel, Bahrain and Morocco.

“Today we send a clear message about our commitment to the Accords and all that they represent,” said Mr Sunak.

“The accords have kick-started a new era of relations in trade, tourism, security and more. This is the dividend of diplomacy.

Israel and the UAE signed a free trade agreement in May. It could double bilateral trade in just five years.”

Travel has also boomed between the two countries with the introduction of direct flights, said Mr Sunak.

Bahrain and Israel have now signed 40 agreements, including a major defence deal, increasing resilience to shared threats.

“This would have been impossible just a few years ago,” said Mr Sunak.

A Jewish man attends the celebration of the festival of Hanukkah at Expo 2020 Dubai. EPA

“But it does show how we can transform peace and stability in the region.”

He said the UK was committed to working with all partners to take the “initiative from strength to strength”.

“It is almost exactly 45 years since Anwar Sadat travelled to Israel to address the Knesset,” said Mr Sunak.

“With [the] Abraham Accords, our generation took up the torch. Now we must continue the journey. We must show that by working together more closely we can deliver lasting peace, stability and prosperity. And more than anything we can deliver hope.”

The UAE and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords in 2020 to establish relations with Israel.

Morocco and Sudan later signed agreements with Israel.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation. Photo: UK Abraham Accords Group

US President Joe Biden’s administration has pledged to “extend and deepen” the accords.

“We will seek to extend and deepen Israel’s growing ties to its neighbours and other Arab states, including through the Abraham Accords, while maintaining our ironclad commitment to its security,” said a US strategy document detailing a five-pronged approach to Middle East security.

“We will also continue to promote a viable two-state solution that preserves Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state while meeting Palestinian aspirations for a secure and viable state of their own.”

'No plans to move embassy to Jerusalem'

A spokeswoman for No 10 on Thursday confirmed Mr Sunak had scrapped his predecessor Liz Truss's plan to move the British embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“It has been looked at. There are no plans to move the British embassy,” the representative told reporters.

Ms Truss made her intention clear to Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid in September when they met on the sidelines of the 77th UN General Assembly in New York.

Her comments were seen as controversial and sparked warnings from faith leaders about the potentially damaging effect a relocation of the embassy could have on peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a statement, the Palestinian Mission to the UK welcomed the change of course from Downing Street.

“We would like to thank the UK government, opposition parties, faith leaders, activists and members of the public whose efforts have helped keep the UK in line with international law on the matter, Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, said.

“The question about the location of the UK’s embassy should never have been asked in the first place.

“There is much work to be done to create a conducive environment for peace in the Middle East and make amends for the historic injustice caused by the Balfour Declaration 105 years ago.

“We call on the British government to play an active role, recognise the State of Palestine, affirm the UK’s support for the rights of Palestinian refugees, ban all illegal goods and products from settlement in occupied territories and sanction companies working in and profiting from them.

“The full and equal application of international law is the way forward towards a lasting and just peace.”

Muslim, Jewish and Christian figures had expressed unease about the mooted change.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said he had “profound concern” about the plan, and said the move “would be seriously damaging to any possibility of lasting peace in the region and to the international reputation of the United Kingdom.”

“Pope Francis and the leaders of churches in the Holy Land have long called for the international Status Quo on Jerusalem to be upheld, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions. The city must be shared as a common patrimony, never becoming an exclusive monopoly of any party,” he added in a tweet.

The Movement for Reform Judaism said it opposed Ms Truss’s plan and was committed to “two viable states as the only just and realistic solution to the present situation.”

“Consequently, we would caution against the government taking action that might undermine peace in the region,” the group added.

Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, wrote to Ms Truss to say she was “alarmed” by her comments. She added that any relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem “does not serve the UK’s interests”.

“If anything, the relocation of the British embassy could result in many destabilising repercussions,” she said. “This point is underscored by respected security analysts and academics.”

Updated: November 04, 2022, 2:35 PM