US President Donald Trump, in a surprise announcement, said on Thursday that Israel and the United Arab Emirates had reached a peace agreement.
The normalisation of relations between the UAE and Israel is a “HUGE breakthrough” Trump tweeted, calling it a “Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends.”
Speaking to reporters later, Trump suggested that more diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and its Muslim neighbours in the region were expected.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described it as “a historic day and a significant step forward for peace in the Middle East.”
“The United States hopes that this brave step will be the first in a series of agreements that ends 72 years of hostilities in the region,” Pompeo said.
The UAE’s ambassador to Washington said the landmark US-brokered peace deal with Israel was a “win for diplomacy” and a “significant advance in Arab-Israeli relations”.
“Today’s announcement is a win for diplomacy and for the region. It is a significant advance in Arab-Israeli relations that lowers tensions and creates new energy for positive change,” Yousef al-Otaiba said in a statement.
In a joint statement, Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said they had spoken on Thursday “and agreed to the full normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”
Israeli and UAE delegations will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security and the establishment of reciprocal embassies, they said.
“At the request of President Trump with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world,” the statement said.
“The United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are confident that additional diplomatic breakthroughs with other nations are possible, and will work together to achieve this goal,” it added.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the deal represented a “historic day” for his country.
But Israel’s agreement, according to White House officials, to suspend de facto annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank posed a measure of political risk at home for Netanyahu, who had pledged to carry out the step.
“I will make a special announcement at 8pm with more details about this historic day for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.
A senior Israeli official said applying Israeli sovereignty to areas of the West Bank — territory Palestinians seek for a state along with Gaza and East Jerusalem — was still on the agenda.
But the official said: “The Trump administration asked us to temporarily suspend the (sovereignty) announcement so that the historic peace agreement with the UAE can be implemented.”
For its part, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said that the deal to normalise relations with Israel was “a bold step” to secure a two-state solution to the long-running Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“Most countries will see this as a bold step to secure a two-state solution, allowing time for negotiations,” Gargash told a press conference.
Asked when the two countries will open embassies, he said he did not want to speculate on the timeframe “but it is definitely not a long time”.