Meeting UAE Foreign Minister, Israel's Ashkenazi Urges Talks With Palestinians

German foreign minister, who hosts Berlin meeting, hails 'an opportunity for new movement in the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians'

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, center, with Gabi Ashkenazi, left, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, right, at the German Foreign Ministry's guesthouse Villa Borsig in Berlin, Germany, October 6, 2020.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, center, with Gabi Ashkenazi, left, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, right, at the German Foreign Ministry's guesthouse Villa Borsig in Berlin, Germany, OctoCredit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/ REUTERS
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Berlin on Tuesday for a meeting with his Emirati and German counterparts, to discuss further steps in normalizing relations between the countries.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met with Ashkenazi to discuss the progress of cooperation within the framework of the Abraham Accords, the U.S.-brokered deals between Israel and Gulf states, and their impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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After their meeting, Ashkenazi called on Palestinians to take this opportunity "to return to the negotiating table." He added, "only through direct negotiations can we advance a solution for the conflict. So long as we delay these discussions, we will pass on to the next generations a more difficult and complicated reality." 

In statements to the press after the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah and Ashkenazi referred to each other as “my friend” and pledged to continue to work together.

Sheikh Abdullah, speaking through a translator, thanked Maas for hosting their meeting and said he hoped the improved relations with Israel would provide “new impetus toward stability and peace” in the Middle East.

Maas pledged Germany's support wherever it was desired.

“It is a great honor that the Israeli and Emirati Foreign Ministers have chosen Berlin as the location for their historic first meeting,” Maas said Monday.

“The most important currency in diplomacy is trust, and I am personally grateful to both of my colleagues for placing this trust in Germany. We are doing everything we can to be good hosts for the dialogue between the two countries on how to shape their future bilateral relations,” he added.

Describing the peace agreement as “courageous,” Maas said that now is “an opportunity for new movement in the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, center, with Gabi Ashkenazi, left, and the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany, October 6, 2020.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, center, with Gabi Ashkenazi, left, and the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany, October 6, 2020. Credit: Michele Tantussi,AP

“We must seize this opportunity, and Germany and Europe want to help.”

In addition to their meeting, Ashkenazi, Maas and bin Zayed also visited the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. 

Writing in the visitors' book in Arabic, bin Zayed called the site "a witness to the fall of a group of human beings who were victims of advocates of extremism and hatred," and he advocated "the noble human values of co-existence, tolerance, acceptance of others and respect of all religions and beliefs."

"Never Again," he added in English.

The UAE dignitary's visit to the memorial was in itself unusual: Many in the overwhelmingly Islamic Middle East feel geographically removed from the Holocaust, some deny it happened and others believe it was unfairly parlayed by foreign powers to create Israel in 1948 at the Palestinians' expense.

In his own inscription, Ashkenazi said his presence there alongside the Emirati and their host, Maas, "symbolizes a new era, an era of peace between the peoples."

It was also a reminder of the need "to live strong and ensure that this will never recur," Ashkenazi wrote in Hebrew.

Ashkenazi, speaking through a translator, said the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Memorial with his Emirati counterpart had been a “historical moment.”

shkenazi flew to Berlin on a German Air Force plane that arrived specifically to pick him up. 

Normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE became official last month, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inked agreements between Israel and two Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, on the White House lawn.

Officials have said that bilateral diplomatic and trade ties between Israel and the UAE would create significant economic opportunities.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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