Monday, 28 Sep 2020

Iran's president says Emirates made 'huge mistake' in Israel deal

TEHERAN (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – The United Arab Emirates has made a “huge mistake” in reaching a deal towards normalising ties with Israel, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Saturday (Aug 15).

He warned the Gulf state against allowing Israel to have a “foothold in the region”.

The UAE-Israel agreement, announced on Thursday, is seen as a strategic boost for the UAE’s regional and global standing.

In a phone interview, the United Arab Emirates said its decision to normalise ties with Israel isn’t about countering Iran.

“This is not about Iran. This is about the UAE, Israel and the United States,” said Mr Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs.

“This is in no way meant to create some sort of grouping against Iran.”

While the Trump administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have sought to frame the agreement as part of their attempt to confront and further isolate Iran, Mr Gargash signalled that the UAE isn’t looking to provoke its near neighbour.  

“We have a very complicated relationship with Iran,” he said. 

“While we have our concerns, we feel also that resolving these issues should be through diplomacy and de-escalation.” 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also criticised the peace agreement, saying it undermines Palestinian rights as he threatened on Friday to withdraw Turkey’s ambassador to the UAE.

Mr Gargash dismissed the statement as a “double standard” which glossed over Turkey’s own significant trade links with Israel.

“They receive over half a million Israeli tourists, have US$2 billion (S$2.74 billion) worth of bilateral trade and an existing embassy there. And I ask myself whether this is a principled position or not,” he said.  

Under the deal, Israel agreed to put aside for now its pledge to annex West Bank land the Palestinians want for a state.

“We have been very concerned with the issue of annexation,” Mr Gargash said.

“Through this imaginative proclamation, we have at least been able to give negotiations space.”

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