Thursday 1 October 2020
 
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INTERVIEW

Dr Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash

Peace accord with Israel a fresh approach: UAE minister

DUBAI, 14 days ago

The peace accord signed between the UAE and Israel yesterday in Washington is a fresh approach since the "old approach of the empty chair, no communications, no bridges has not worked," said Dr Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, in a CNN interview.

Speaking on CNN's Connect the World with Becky Anderson, Dr Gargash responded to critics who view the normalisation of relations with Israel as purely a foreign policy win for President Trump ahead of the US election saying that the accord allowed the opportunity to suspend annexation. He also discussed relations with Turkey, Iran and Palestine as a result of the normalisation pact.

Excerpts from the interview:

Dr Anwar Gargash: I think the most important thing why this peace agreement was juxtaposed very close in this period to the American election was really the opportunity to suspend annexation.

Becky Anderson, CNN: Which has been applauded by the Democrats as much as it has by the Republicans.

Dr Anwar Gargash: Exactly. So, really, if one is asking the question why now, I think the key, really, is in the issue of annexation. Everybody was appalled by the decision of the Israeli government and part of the electoral pledge, really, to Palestinian lands, and that was sort of hanging over a two-state solution. We could have signed this next year, we could have signed it the year after, but I think that's really the critical part if you're asking the question why now?

Becky Anderson, CNN: So why is it that the Palestinians say that it seems clear to them they can no longer count on certain Arab states for support?

Dr Anwar Gargash: I mean, not all our sovereign decisions here have to be completely about the Palestinian issue. We think that we can have the right balance of having a normal relations with Israel, but at the same time, being, you know, steadfast with regards to our goal towards the two-state solution and dependent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. I would say it's really about a fresh approach. Clearly the old approach of the empty chair, the old approach of no communications, no bridges, in our assessment, has not worked.

Becky Anderson, CNN: So, in reality that means what? What can you offer to the Palestinians in support of a new dialogue or a dialogue, at least, with the Israelis and the possible retabling of a two-state solution?

Dr Anwar Gargash: That's a good question. It's a very good question. I would say number one is we already have a tangible outcome, which is the pledge on suspension of annexation. Again, is this going to be in perpetuity? I doubt it. But at least we have a quite comfortable window –

Becky Anderson, CNN: You're talking about what, five years?

Dr Anwar Gargash: I don't know. And I think our ability to influence the Israelis will be more pronounced. I don't see it immediately to deal with tomorrow, but as you build, I would say political and economic and investment profile, your wait becomes more important in a bilateral relationship.

Becky Anderson, CNN: Turkey has accused the UAE of, and I quote here, betraying the Palestinian cause for its own interests. The Turkish foreign minister saying, and I quote him here, “It is a country that puts pressure on some Arab countries regarding Palestine.” Your response?

Dr Anwar Gargash: Again, Turkey's position is really not about Palestine. Turkey's position is about polarised region where Turkey has tried to play an outside role within the Arab context.

Becky Anderson, CNN: You have accused them of neo-Ottoman expansionism.

Dr Anwar Gargash: True, and I think this is also part and parcel of Turkey's image of itself.

Becky Anderson, CNN: It does remain significant to bipartisan position to sell F-35s to the UAE due to concerns that that would degrade Israel's technological and tactical military advantage in the region, while this deal, the normalisation in and of itself, has bipartisan support. That element does not, as we understand it.

Dr Anwar Gargash: The debate will always be there. I was reading comments, I think, the day before yesterday, by a former Israeli Prime Minister arguing that these F-35s should be sold to the UAE and that it was ridiculous in any way that the F-35s undermine Israel's security but make, actually, an American ally perhaps more secure.

Becky Anderson, CNN: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said, and I quote, “We have a 20-year plus security relationship with the UAE, we've provided them with technical assistance and with military assistance. We will now continue to review that process. We are deeply committed to ensure that the UAE has…”-- and I'm paraphrasing here – “The equipment they need to secure and defend their own people from the same threat that we face, that of the Islamic republic of Iran.” Is that what this is all about?

Dr Anwar Gargash: We do have our issues with Iran, and many of these issues are substantial issues. I think that we see these issues need to be resolved through de-escalation and through diplomacy. This is not an agreement about Iran. This is an agreement, firstly, about the UAE, about the UAE’s role and position in the world, and it's, secondly, about that of the Arab-Israeli theatre and what can be done there and what messages to send. This is not about Iran.




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