Israel to host top Arab diplomats during Blinken’s visit

Joseph Krauss
Associated Press

Jerusalem – Israel said Friday it would host the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain during U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit early next week, in what would be the latest in a flurry of high-level meetings held across the Middle East.

The three Arab countries normalized relations with Israel in 2020 in the so-called Abraham Accords. The Biden administration welcomed those agreements, which were concluded under then-President Donald Trump, and has expressed interest in negotiating additional ones.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, talks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, March 24, 2022.

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Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it would host the four top diplomats on Sunday and Monday, with additional details to be provided later.

In a separate development, Jordan’s King Abdullah II hosted Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the southern Jordanian city of Aqaba.

The palace said Friday’s meeting, which was also attended by a senior Saudi official, “covered means to advance ties between Jordan and these countries,” without elaborating. A statement from the Iraqi leader’s office said they discussed the global economic crisis and ways to confront food security challenges.

Sheikh Mohammed, the de facto ruler of the UAE, met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and el-Sissi in Egypt earlier this week.

Blinken will visit Israel, the occupied West Bank, Morocco and Algeria starting this weekend, as U.S. diplomacy faces serious tests related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as Middle Eastern regional issues.

In Israel, Blinken plans to speak with Israeli officials about their efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. He will also update them on the status of talks aimed at reviving Iran’s nuclear deal. Efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian dialogue will also be on the agenda.

“The secretary will emphasize to all of the foreign leaders he meets that the United States stands in solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine in the face of the Kremlin’s aggression,” the State Department said Thursday.

Israel was strongly opposed to the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers and welcomed Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from it. Israel has warned against reviving the agreement and says it will not be bound by any new deal.

Israel has meanwhile walked a fine line between Russia and Ukraine since hostilities began last month. Bennett has expressed support for the Ukrainian people but stopped short of condemning Russia’s invasion, and in recent weeks has served as a mediator.

Israel regularly conducts airstrikes on what it says are hostile Iranian military targets in neighboring Syria. Such strikes must be coordinated with Russia, which intervened in Syria’s civil war in 2015 on the side of President Bashar Assad. Russia is also a party to the Iran talks.

Assad was in the UAE last week, marking his first visit to an Arab country since the Syrian uprising began in 2011. The UAE, a U.S. ally and the driving force behind the Abraham Accords, has also sought to avoid angering Russia.