‘Historic’ moment as UAE and Israeli foreign ministers meet for first time

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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (C), UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed (L), and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (R), speak at a press conference after their meeting in front of Villa Borsig, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. The three foreign minister met for talks in the German capital. (AP)
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UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed speaks at a press conference in front of Villa Borsig, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. (WAM)
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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (C), UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed (L), and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (R), speak at a press conference after their meeting in front of Villa Borsig, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. The three foreign minister met for talks in the German capital. (AP)
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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks at a press conference in front of Villa Borsig, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. (WAM)
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Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi speaks at a press conference in front of Villa Borsig, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. (WAM)
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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (R), stands with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed (L), and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (C), as they arrive for talks at the German foreign ministry’s guesthouse Villa Borsig Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. (AP)
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UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed (L), and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, stand in front of Villa Borsig, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. The foreign ministers of the UAE and Israel met for the first time. (AP)
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UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed (L), and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, stand in front of Villa Borsig, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. The foreign ministers of the UAE and Israel met for the first time. (WAM)
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Updated 07 October 2020

‘Historic’ moment as UAE and Israeli foreign ministers meet for first time

  • The foreign ministers met to discuss further steps in normalizing relations
  • They also discussed cooperation in the energy field in Berlin

DUBAI: The Middle East has taken its first steps toward a new era of security and prosperity, according to Emirati foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed. This is in line with his nation’s vision for a stable region, he said.
His comments came during a joint press conference in Berlin with his German and Israeli counterparts, Heiko Maas and Gabi Ashkenazi. The historic, face-to-face meeting of the Israeli and Emirati ministers was their first since their countries set aside decades of enmity and signed a US-brokered agreement in mid-September to normalize relations. Bahrain also signed a similar agreement with Israel.

Sheikh Abdullah said the agreement changes traditional thinking on ways to address regional challenges, and focuses on practical steps with tangible results.
He thanked Maas for hosting the meeting with “my new friend Gabi Ashkenazi” and added: “Three decades ago, the German people united Berlin to make history, and today we are gathered together in the hope of making history.”
He said the most important thing to emphasize is the return of the hope that the Palestinians and Israelis can work together to agree a two-state solution and a brighter future for the children of the region.
“In the UAE we are looking forward to opening more new horizons of cooperation to make peace, and to the economic opportunities that it opens up in the region,” he added.




German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (C), stands with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed (R), and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L), as they arrive for talks at the German foreign ministry’s guesthouse Villa Borsig Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. (WAM)

“We will work together to take advantage of our world-leading capabilities in the research and development sectors to meet the needs of current and future generations.”
The minister highlighted sectors such as food security, energy, trade, health, aviation and technology as providing opportunities to expand and strengthen cooperation in the region.
He said that to maximize the benefits of international cooperation, the UAE is committed to working with partners to promote international investment, and looking for partners in Germany and Israel.
“Today, I discussed with my colleague Gabi Ashkenazi a set of proposals and ideas — perhaps most notably cooperation in the field of energy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution — in recognition that cooperation in research and development could represent a step toward a more stable, integrated and prosperous Middle East,” said Sheikh Abdullah.

He added that the UAE, Germany and Israel share an interest in promoting tolerance and diversity in their countries, as well as promoting pluralism and moderation in the region. He said all three nations share a deep concern about the threats that extremism and terrorism pose to them and the world.
“Just as we do not compromise with terrorism, we must also not compromise with extremism and hatred,” he said, adding that the UAE shares with Germany and Israel a desire to preserve regional stability as part of a peaceful international order characterized by cooperation and stability.
Ashkenazi thanked the UAE for its courage, vision and the efforts it has made to achieve peace. The agreement between the two countries provides hope and good news to the citizens of both, he added, as well as the prospect of peace in the region. It also contributes to efforts to achieve stability and confront common challenges, he said, foremost among which is the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier in the day, the Emirati and Israeli foreign ministers visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

Ashkenazi said the occasion “represented a new era of peace, development and hope, and we will see citizens of the UAE freely visit the State of Israel and all the holy sites, and we are looking forward to our citizens visiting the UAE soon.”
He added that discussions with his Emirati counterpart have been positive and presented a vision for relations between the two countries and future cooperation.
He said that “just peace is reached through courage and respect,” and called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
“Only through direct negotiations will we be able to find a solution to the conflict, and the longer we drag this one and the longer we wait for negotiations to start, the more difficult it will be and it will be transferred to future generations and they will be faced with a difficult reality,” Ashkenazi added.
Maas said Germany welcomed the signing of the Abraham Accords, the name given to the agreements with Israel signed by the UAE and Bahrain, and called the Israel-UAE agreement the “first good news in the Middle East for a long time.”

He urged them to go further still, however, and for the entire region to build on the momentum to find a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “This opportunity must be seized,” said Maas. His country currently holds the presidency of the EU, and he said the bloc is ready to help.
The UAE and Bahrain are the first Arab nations to establish normalized relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

 

(With AFP)


Turkish president denies country has a ‘Kurdish issue’

Updated 26 November 2020

Turkish president denies country has a ‘Kurdish issue’

  • Erdogan defended the removal of 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts
  • Erdogan's lack of sensitivity to the Kurdish issue could inflame tensions with Kurds in Syria and Iraq: analyst

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied the country has a “Kurdish issue,” even as he doubled down on his anti-Kurdish stance and accused a politician of being a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”

Erdogan was addressing members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Nov. 25 when he made the remarks.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched an insurgency against the state in 1984, and is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and US. Erdogan accuses the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of links to the PKK, which it denies.

Erdogan told AKP members that Selahattin Demirtas, the HDP’s former co-chair who challenged him in the 2015 presidential elections, was a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”

Demirtas has been behind bars since Nov. 4, 2016, despite court orders calling for his release and faces hundreds of years in prison over charges related to the outlawed PKK.

The president defended the removal of 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts in the country's Kurdish-majority southeast region since local elections in March 2019.

He also said the AKP would design and implement democratization reforms with its nationalistic coalition partner, which is known for its anti-Kurdish credentials.  

His words are likely to disrupt the peace efforts that Turkey has been making with its Kurdish community for years, although they have been baby steps. They could also hint at a tougher policy shift against Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

According to Oxford University Middle East analyst Samuel Ramani, Erdogan’s comments should be read as a reaction to Tuesday’s resignation of top presidential aide Bulent Arinc, who urged for Demirtas to be released and insisted that the Kurds were repressed within Turkey.

“This gained widespread coverage in the Kurdish media, including in Iraqi Kurdistan's outlet Rudaw which has international viewership,” he told Arab News. “Erdogan wanted to stop speculation on this issue.”

Ramani said that Erdogan's lack of sensitivity to the Kurdish issue could inflame tensions with Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

“It is also an oblique warning to US President-elect Joe Biden not to try to interfere in Turkish politics by raising the treatment of Kurds within Turkey.”

But Erdogan’s comments would matter little in the long run, he added.

“Much more will depend on whether Turkey mounts another Operation Peace Spring-style offensive in northern Syria, which is a growing possibility. If that occurs during the Trump to Biden transition period, the incoming Biden administration could be more critical of Turkey and convert its rhetoric on solidarity with the Kurds into action.”

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a key partner for the US in its fight against Daesh. During a campaign speech in Oct. 2019, Biden criticized the US decision to withdraw from Syria as a “complete failure” that would leave Syrian Kurds open to aggression from Turkey.

“It’s more insidious than the betrayal of our brave Kurdish partners, it’s more dangerous than taking the boot off the neck of ISIS,” Biden said at the time.

UK-based analyst Bill Park said that Erdogan was increasingly influenced by his coalition partners, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

“He might also believe that both the PKK and the HDP have been so weakened that he doesn't have to take them into consideration,” he told Arab News. “The Western world will not respond dramatically to this announcement but they are tired of Erdogan. There is little hope that Turkey's relations with the US or the EU can be much improved. The Syrian Kurdish PYD militia are seeking an accommodation with Damascus, while the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the largest party in Iraqi Kurdistan, is indifferent to the fate of Turkey's Kurds and has problems of its own.”

The HDP, meanwhile, is skeptical about Erdogan’s reform pledges and sees them as “politicking.”

“This reform narrative is not sincere,” said HDP lawmaker Meral Danis Bestas, according to a Reuters news agency report. “This is a party which has been in power for 18 years and which has until now totally trampled on the law. It has one aim: To win back the support which has been lost.”

Turkey’s next election is scheduled for 2023, unless there is a snap election in a year.