UAE and Bahrain sign diplomatic deals with Israel at White House

Washington

Israel on Tuesday signed historic diplomatic pacts with two Gulf Arab states at a White House ceremony that President Donald Trump declared will mark the “dawn of a new Middle East,” casting himself as an international peacemaker at the height of his reelection campaign.

The bilateral agreements formalize the normalization of Israel’s already thawing relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in line with their common opposition to Iran. But the agreements do not address the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, who view the pacts as a stab in the back from their fellow Arabs and a betrayal of their cause for a Palestinian state.

Hundreds of people massed on the sun-washed South Lawn to witness the signing of agreements in a festive atmosphere little marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Attendees did not practice social distancing and most guests didn’t wear masks.

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Mr. Trump said from a balcony overlooking the South Lawn. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the day “is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace.”

Neither Mr. Netanyahu nor Mr. Trump mentioned the Palestinians in their remarks, but both the UAE and Bahraini foreign ministers spoke of the importance of creating a Palestinian state.

Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, even thanked Mr. Netanyahu for “halting the annexation” of West Bank land claimed by the Palestinians in exchange for Emirati recognition. Mr. Netanyahu, however, has insisted that Israel has only suspended its plans to annex West Bank settlements.

“Today, we are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East – a change that will send hope around the world,” Mr. Al Nahyan said.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani said Bahrain would stand with the Palestinians. “Today is a truly historic occasion,” he said. “A moment for hope and opportunity.”

But in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militants fired two rockets into Israel, apparently meant to coincide with the ceremony. The Israeli military said the rockets were fired from Gaza and one was intercepted by air defenses. Earlier in the day, Palestinian activists held small demonstrations in the West Bank and in Gaza, where they trampled and set fire to pictures of Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu, and the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain.

Israel and the United States hope the agreements can usher in a major shift in the region should other Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, follow suit. That could have implications for Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Until now, Israel has had peace deals only with Egypt and Jordan.

Other Arab countries believed to be close to recognizing Israel include Oman, Sudan, and Morocco.

“We are very down the road with about five different countries,” Mr. Trump told reporters before the ceremony.

Many longtime Mideast analysts and former officials, among

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Israel, Arab states set to sign Trump-brokered deals in White House ceremony

Israel will officially sign deals to normalize ties with the Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday that were brokered by President Donald Trump in what is described as a diplomatic breakthrough.

The agreements — called the Abraham Accords — will be signed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani during a ceremony at the White House.

“Instead of focusing on past conflicts, people are now focused on creating a vibrant future filled with endless possibilities,” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who helped negotiate the agreements, said in a statement late Monday.

The UAE and Bahrain are the third and fourth Arab states to normalize ties with Israel despite the country not having reached a resolution to the entrenched dispute with the Palestinians.

The last peace treaties with Israel were signed by Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

The new agreements will see Israel suspend its claim of sovereignty over areas outlined in the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan.

While marking a diplomatic victory for Trump ahead of November’s presidential election, the agreements have outraged Palestinians, sparking protests across the region.

Clerics hold signs and the Palestinian flag during a protest against normalizing ties with Israel in front of the Palestinian embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday.Khalid al-Mousily / Reuters

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned the move, saying on Twitter that it erodes unity between Arab states.

“This day will be added to the calendar of Palestinian pain and the record of Arab fractures,” he said.

Critics warn the new deals also risk undermining the 2002 Arab peace initiative, which was proposed by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the Arab League, which called for normalization of ties with Israel on the condition that Israeli forces were withdrawn from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

“Peace which does not include the realization of the rights of all Palestinians will be one without justice,” Shawan Jabarin, general director of the independent Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, said.

Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, center left, elbow bumps with an Emirati official as he leaves Abu Dhabi, Arab Emirates, on Sept. 1.Nir Elias / AP

Still, the deal is a positive development for the region, setting the stage for increased trade, tourism and diplomacy, Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, told NBC News.

“This is a big moment, it’s an historic moment and we shouldn’t underestimate how important it is,” he said.

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The Gulf states could use the deal to push Israel toward more meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians, who had refused to take part in Trump’s Middle East peace initiative, Mekelberg added.

Israeli officials have previously said the country seeks to expand ties with other countries in

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Israel, UAE to sign deal at White House next week

The UAE-Israel ceremony will come just a month after the agreement to establish full diplomatic relations was announced on Aug. 13. The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory to Trump as he seeks reelection, and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.

That announcement was followed by the first direct commercial flight between the countries and the establishment of telephone links.

The UAE also announced the end of its boycott of Israel, which allows trade and commerce between the oil-rich Emirates and Israel, home to a thriving diamond trade, pharmaceutical companies and tech start-ups.

The Palestinians have rejected the deal as trading away one of the few cards they have in moribund peace talks with Israel to establish its own independent state — the Arab boycott of Israel. The UAE presented the agreement as taking Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank off the table. But Netanyahu insisted the pause was “temporary.”

Abu Dhabi also hopes the deal will allow it to purchase advanced American weaponry, like the F-35 stealth fighter jet.

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Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show the name of the Emirates foreign minister is Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, not Mohammed bin Zayad.

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Serbia, Kosovo sign economic pact at White House

Former foes Kosovo and Serbia have agreed on a historic pact to normalize economic relations, US President Donald Trump announced Friday at the White House.

And in a fresh diplomatic success for the US leader, both Kosovo and Serbia also agreed to improve their relations with Israel — Kosovo will formally recognize the Jewish state and Serbia will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

“A truly historic day,” Trump said, with Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sitting beside him in the Oval Office.

“By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries were able to reach a real breakthrough on economic cooperation across a broad range of issues.”

Trump praised his special emissary Richard Grenell for bringing the two sides together, two decades after they fought a bloody war that left 13,000 dead. 

“It took decades because you didn’t have anybody trying to get it done,” Trump said of the agreement.

“There was a lot of fighting and now there’s a lot of love,” he said. “Economics can bring people together.”

Speaking to reporters in the White House, Vucic said Trump had done a “great job,” praising his commitment to the Balkan region, while Hoti called it a big step forward — though neither Serbia nor its former territory formally recognize the other.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci hailed the agreement in a statement, praising Trump for advancing the cause “of peace, economic development and Euro-Atlantic future.”

Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, “must now continue to work for membership in international organizations and for new recognitions, for our country to be fully consolidated domestically and internationally,” he wrote.

Details of the agreement were not immediately available, but it was expected to be limited to the normalization of some economic ties, easing commerce and opening up road, rail and air links between the former Balkan war foes.

The talks included representatives of major US economic aid agencies including the Export-Import Bank, suggesting US financial support was involved in bringing the two sides together.

The European Union has brokered talks for nearly a decade to thaw the bitter relationship between Serbia and its former territory, but many of the agreements they set have not been implemented.

An effort focused on business and commerce was launched more recently by US officials.

But Serbia made clear during the talks that it would not go as far as recognizing Kosovo as a fully-fledged state.

The Kosovo-Serbia pact, and their agreements to improve relations with Israel, added to Trump’s recent record of diplomatic successes.

Last month, Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced they would normalize relations after US-brokered negotiations.  

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Serbia, Kosovo Expected To Sign Pact At White House

Serbia and Kosovo are expected to sign an agreement on opening economic relations at the White House Friday, giving President Donald Trump the opportunity to claim a new diplomatic victory for his administration.

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic are scheduled to sign the pact at 11:00 am (1500 GMT) with Trump in attendance after a day of negotiations in Washington on Thursday, according to the White House.

The agreement is expected to be limited to the normalization of some economic ties, including possibly opening up road, rail and air links between the former Balkan war foes.

Although the European Union has been trying without success for nearly a decade to thaw a bitter relationship between Serbia and its former territory, which declared independence in 2008, an effort focused on business and commerce was launched more recently by US officials.

But Serbia made clear during the talks that they would not go as far as recognizing Kosovo as a fully-fledged state.

White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said late Thursday that the two sides had “made real progress today.”

Newly elected Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti (L) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (R) are expected to sign agreements on opening economic relations after a day of talks in Washington Newly elected Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti (L) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (R) are expected to sign agreements on opening economic relations after a day of talks in Washington Photo: AFP / Armend NIMANI

“Economic normalization means jobs for young people,” he said.

Hoti said Thursday they had made “great progress” on improving economic cooperation.

Vucic insisted that he would not accept anything that included recognizing Kosovo.

“We thought it should not be in a document about economic normalization, that we couldn’t accept it. People from the Trump cabinet listened (to) what we had to say, they were fair and I believe that in other documents that article is no longer there,” he said.

The two countries remain bitter over a bloody war fought two decades ago, in which 13,000 died.

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