UAE Says 'Israeli Annexation Talk Must Stop,' Warns of 'Serious Setback for Peace'

Statement comes days after Palestinians refuse coronavirus aid sent from UAE via Israel, citing fears of normalization

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Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, speaks at an event at Chatham House in London, U.K., July 17, 2017.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, speaks at an event at Chatham House in London, U.K., July 17, 2017.Credit: Neil Hall/ REUTERS

A senior United Arab Emirates official said on Monday that any unilateral move by Israel to annex parts of the occupied West Bank would be a serious setback for the Middle East peace process.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said cabinet discussions would begin on July 1 on his plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to territory Palestinians want for their own state.

"Continued Israeli talk of annexing Palestinian lands must stop," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a Twitter post.

"Any unilateral Israeli move will be a serious setback for the peace process, undermine Palestinian self determination & constitute a rejection of the international & Arab consensus towards stability & peace."

U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states including the UAE have recently appeared to be prioritizing close ties with the United States that are vital to countering Iran over traditional unswerving support for the Palestinians.

Gulf states largely voiced support for a peace plan proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump in January for creating a Palestinian state but demilitarized and with borders drawn to meet Israeli security needs, while granting U.S. recognition of Israeli settlements on occupied West Bank land. The was plan unilaterally rejected by Palestinians and their supporters.

Israel and the UAE do not have formal diplomatic relations, but there are many clandestine contacts between the two countries, as well as the occasional public visit by Israeli officials. Israel has official representation at a United Nations organization in Abu Dhabi, and this year Israel was also invited to participate in Dubai’s Expo world fair.

Last month, the Palestinian Authority refused to accept medical aid sent by the United Arab Emirates to deal with the coronavirus outbreak on a direct flight to Israel, citing fears over normalization with the Arab world. The aid went to the Gaza Strip instead.

Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh told reporters that the plane's landing in Israel was not coordinated with any Palestinian party, including the authority's UAE ambassador. 

The relationship between the PA and the Emirates has been tense in recent years, partly because the UAE is protecting former Fatah senior official and President Mahmoud Abbas' rival Mohammed Dahlan.

In addition, the Authority fears that receiving the equipment through Ben-Gurion will legitimize direct flights from Gulf States to Israel, thereby legalizing the normalization between the countries under the auspices of providing humanitarian assistance to the Authority.

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