UK urged to help further Abraham Accords as Commons marks first anniversary

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UK urged to help further Abraham Accords as Commons marks first anniversary

Diplomats from the UAE and Bahrain speak in Westminster to mark one year of normalisation with Israel, as they 'hope the circle widens' to more of the region

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Mansoor Abulhoul, James Cleverly, Tzipi Hotovely, Anwar Gargash, Farhad Binali
Mansoor Abulhoul, James Cleverly, Tzipi Hotovely, Anwar Gargash, Farhad Binali

Britain is well placed to help deliver the vision of the Abraham Accords, a senior Emirati official told MPs and peers in Parliament last night.

Anwar Gargash, who served as minister of state for foreign affairs for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) until earlier this year, addressed a House of Commons gathering marking the launch of a new UK group to promote the Accords.

Standing metres from the flags of the UK, Israel, UAE and Bahrain on the eve of the first anniversary of the historic White House signing ceremony, the presidential advisor suggested leaders had overcome “a psychological barrier” that suggested normalisation was beyond reach.

But he cautioned: “Normalisation is not an event, it’s a process. I see this developing as we see more trust being build, more business done.”

Gargash added: “I cannot imagine these four flags have ever been assembled together here. The UK can play an important role in building up our collective expectations of the Accords.

“We want others in the region to see the benefits of establishing peace between Israelis and Arabs. Let’s hope the circle widens.”

He also expressed hope that the Accords would help the path towards a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians and end decades of violence “that have seen so much suffering” for both. “We celebrate an important milestone on the way to Middle East peace but there are many more challenge,” he said.

And he rubbished the suggestion that normalisation was not already having a political impact – pointing to the fact there were no less than six phone calls between former Israel foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his Emirati counterpart during the last war with Hamas. “If that isn’t a political impact,” he said “I don’t know what is.”

Revealing he would visit Israel and the West Bank later this year, U.K. Middle East minister James Cleverly agreed that normalisation would be a “good jumping off point” from which to address the plight of Palestinians.

He also told the gathering that included the UAE and Israeli ambassadors that he was “humbled” to take part in an online Chanukah event, organised by the Jewish News and Board of Deputies, that saw all three country’s envoys to the UK lighting candles last December.

Tzipi Hotovely, James Cleverly, UAE Ambassador Mansoor Abulhoul and Bahraini Ambassador Sheikh Fawaz Al-Khalifa at the Chanukah event

Saying London was keen to play its part in promoting normalisation and the opportunities it brings, Cleverly added: “I hope this will continue to expand between Israel and other countries in the Arab world. We can all reap the benefits from this, socially or economically.”

Over the last 12 months, embassies have been established and tourism has boomed while agreements have been signed to boost cooperation in fields from culture and cyber to agriculture and academia.

Former cabinet minister Dr Liam Fox, who heads the new UK group and fronted the event with Lord Stuart Polak, stressed Britain’s “strategic” involvement in the Gulf through trade and the military and insisted he’d “seldom been more thrilled” to take on a role. The Accords, he said, create an opportunity to marry the creativity of Israel with the resources in the Gulf and said the their impact must be “real” in bettering the lives and livelihoods of people on the region.

Dr. Liam Fox

The gathering was addressed by Israel’s Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, hailed the Jewish heritage of Bahrain and spoke of how she has struck up an immediate connection with “my dear friend” Mansoor Abulhoul, her Emirati counterpart. From there being zero flights to the UAE just 18 months ago, she said, tens of thousands of Israelis had since rushed to experience Dubai. She now hopes to follow in their footsteps by visiting the Expo which opens next month.

She also raise the issue of the Iranian nuclear threat, saying: “The importance of an alliance of all moderates has never been greater.”

Stepping in for the Bahraini Ambassador who was unexpectedly abroad, his deputy Farhad Binali stressed his country’s record of support for activities that bring people of different backgrounds together and celebrate difference.

Gargash delivered a message to JN readers, saying: “At this sacred time, I would like to extend my sincere wishes for health and prosperity to the Jewish community of Britain. As we commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, we have an opportunity to reflect on the importance of interfaith tolerance in building bridges of understanding between faiths and cultures. Our societies are all made more resilient and peaceful by such engagement.”

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