Dubai: The signing of the Abraham Accord between the UAE and Israel will shift the regional dynamics for the better, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said in a response to a question by Gulf News during a virtual press conference today.
“Rather than answering you with countries, I will answer you with values. The Accord will bring a shift towards de-escalation in the region. [It will bring about] the understanding that the polarisation has been disastrous. It is not a bad thing to dream, aspire. But we have to work very hard to realise these goals.”
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The decision to normalise relations with Israel, Gargash noted, had “broken the psychological barrier” and was “the way forward” for the region, creating more leverage for the UAE. ‘Breaking taboos and walls’
He said the UAE is very positive this historic accord will bring results that it would like to see. On the bilateral sphere, one of the major driver of the accord, will make the UAE more competitive. The accord will help UAE become a global player in terms of breaking taboos and walls.
Told that Egypt and Jordan, the first two Arab countries to establish ties with Israel, had not had too much leverage over the country, he said: “I take issue with the precept that Egypt and Jordan don’t have more leverage with Israel now than before. I think they do. The Israelis have, in difficult times, listened to the Egyptian side. Our leverage will be different. We are not shackled with a history of war or territorial issues. The more Arab countries have leverage, the more Israel will understand the region’s concerns.”
Path of harmony and US role
The UAE is a country, Gargash said, where there are many nationalities, religions. “The path forward is harmony and ethnic tolerance. This is not only our view towards Jews but also Hindus, Christians and Sikhs. Their right to religious observance is preserved. The Abrahamic House will have a synagogue.”
Dr Gargash said the presence of the United States as a mediator of the deal to normalise relations with Israel assures him that the suspension of further annexation of Palestinian lands will hold.
2002 Arab Initiative
Commenting on the 2002 Arab Peace initiative, he said it was not the time to revise it and that it remains the cornerstone of the UAE’s commitment to the Palestinian cause. “The Arab Peace Initiative remains at the heart of our collective efforts to reach a solution. Our goals have not changed when it comes to the Palestinian issue. The suspension of annexation is a clear deliverable. Once the dust settles, the Palestinians will understand and appreciate that having a functioning relationship ... will put us in a better place to support and help the Palestinians. They have to decide if and how they want us to help.”
‘No border or water issues with Israel’
On negotiations on the Palestinian issue, Dr Gargash said a “policy of the empty chair” had not served the Palestinians or Arabs well. “There are no border or territorial or water issues here [between the UAE and Israel]. So we will move faster [on issues like] establishing embassies and consulates. We seek to sign double taxation agreement, protection of investment agreement, we seek air services agreement to regularise air services between UAE and Israel. We have an ambitious plan to build a constructive peace.”
‘This is the way forward’
Dr Gargash said that with agreements like these, there is a need for time - to realise the full potential. “We are very much hopeful that this is the way forward for the region. We have been doing things viz-a-vis the Arab Israeli issue the same way, and it has not led us anywhere. The UAE position remains support for viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Accord not directed at anyone
Dr Gargash said: “We have for a long time spoken about religious tolerance, cultural tolerance. We have been saying political disputes should be resolved but they need not be obstacles towards building healthy bilateral relations. In the region, the accord is not directed at anybody. Regionally, we feel that with regards to the Arab-Israeli issue, a strategic breakthrough is needed.”
F-35 fighter jets
The minister said that the UAE wants to modernise its military and a request for US F-35 warplanes has been on the table since before a normalisation deal with Israel. The Abraham Accord should dispel “any grain of doubt” on why the UAE should get stealth F-35 fighter jets from the United States, Gargash told reporters. “The UAE seeks like any country that takes its military seriously, to modernise its military, always, so our request for the F-35 and other systems pre-dates this agreement,” he said. The UAE’s existing F-16 jets are now almost two decades old and it is time to renew them, he said.