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UAE minister calls for Arab openness to ties with Israel

Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, gestures during a press conference in Dubai about the situation in Yemen on August 13, 2018. - The United Arab Emirates, Riyadh's main partner in the Saudi-led military coalition battling Huthi rebels in Yemen, says it is also determined to wipe out Al-Qaeda in the country's south. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP/Getty)

Relations between the Arab countries and Israel need to shift in order to make progress towards peace with the Palestinians, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said yesterday.

“The decision of many Arab countries not to talk with Israel has complicated finding a solution over the decades,” UAE’s The National quoted Gargash as saying. He explained that the years-long Arab decision to halt contact with Israel was “a mistake.”

“Many, many years ago, when there was an Arab decision not to have contact with Israel, that was a very, very wrong decision, looking back,” Gargash stressed, calling on the Arab governments to “dissect and divide between having a political issue and keeping your [Arab states] lines of communication open.”

The UAE official added that he was expecting “increased contact” between the Arab countries and Israel through various bilateral deals and officials’ visits. He urged for what he described as a “strategic shift” between Israel and the Arab governments.

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“The strategic shift needs actually for us to progress on the peace front,” he pointed out, warning that the two-state solution “will no longer be feasible because a sort of reduced rump [Palestinian] state will no longer be practical.”

Gargash’s remarks came after the UAE and other Gulf states had criticised the US President Donald Trump’s recognition earlier this week of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights – a strategic highland that was captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, during which Israel had defeated the Arab armies and conquered Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel currently has formal diplomatic relations with Egypt and Jordan only. It sees Arab states as natural allies against Iran.

Last year, an Israeli cabinet minister visited the UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi. In October, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman, the first time for an Israeli leader to visit the Sultanate in 22 years. The visits had sparked a wave of criticism by Arab politicians and activists on social media networks, condemning what they called “normalisation with Israel.”

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