Blinken calls for stronger ties between Israel and Arab states

'We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy,' US secretary of state says

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised on Friday to encourage more Arab countries to recognise Israel as he met with diplomats a year after the signing of the Abraham Accords.

The virtual event brought together top diplomats from Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco and amounted to a full embrace by US President Joe Biden of the Abraham Accords, brokered by former president Donald Trump.

The officials hailed the agreement, which has led to the opening of embassies, the launch of direct flights and a series of deals to boost economic ties.

“This administration will continue to build on the successful efforts of the last administration to keep normalisation marching forward,” Mr Blinken said.

He said the Biden administration would continue to help foster ties between Israel and the Arab states and encouraged other countries to follow the lead of those that have signed on to the Abraham Accords.

“We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy,” he said.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, from left, U.S. President Donald Trump, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Bahrain's foreign affairs minister, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates' foreign affairs minister, stand during an Abraham Accords signing ceremony event on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed landmark agreements on Tuesday to move toward establishing normal relations with Israel, setting in motion a potentially historic shift in Mideast politics at a White House ceremony hosted by President Donald Trump. Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid echoed this sentiment, and added: “This Abraham Accords club is open for new members.”

Mr Lapid announced on Friday that he would visit Bahrain this month, the first such visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf country. He has already visited the UAE and Morocco.

The UAE last year became the first Arab state to normalise relations with Israel since Egypt and Jordan did so decades earlier, with Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco following soon after.

Quote
We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Following the announcement of the agreement, Palestinian officials said they felt betrayed by their Arab brethren for normalising relations with Israel without first demanding progress towards the creation of a Palestinian state, with US critics of Mr Trump levelling a similar charge at him.

Mr Blinken said during the virtual conference that “tangible improvements” must be made in the lives of Palestinians and promoted a negotiated peace between Palestine and Israel.

The three Arab ministers all called for progress towards a Palestinian state.

“We feel that the Abrahamic Accords will allow us to help and assist further in the peace process, leading to what we all see as the ultimate goal of a two-state solution,” said Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to President Sheikh Khalifa.

Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said that relaunching the peace process with Palestine is “fundamental".

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani said more should be done to display the benefits of cooperation between Israel and the Arab world.

“We need to demonstrate what genuine regional peace, interdependence and prosperity can mean in practice for the day-to-day lives of all the peoples of the Middle East,” he said.

Updated: September 17th 2021, 6:28 PM
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