Reuters / September 9, 2020
CAIRO – Palestinian leaders won renewed Saudi support for Palestinian statehood at a Wednesday meeting, but did not persuade the Arab League to condemn last month’s normalisation deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
At a video conference of foreign ministers, the Palestinian leadership softened its own censure of the UAE for the U.S.-brokered August 13 accord, which is to be formalised at a signing ceremony at the White House next week, but to no avail.
“Discussions regarding this point were serious. It was comprehensive and took some time. But it did not lead in the end to agreement about the draft communique that was proposed by the Palestinian side,”
Arab League Assistant Secretary General Hossam Zaki told reporters.
The UAE-Israel accord was the first such accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years, and was forged partly through shared fears of Iran.
Palestinians were dismayed by the UAE’s move, fearing it would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position – known as the Arab peace initiative – that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
“We have asked to have a clear condemnation of any breaking out of the Arab peace initiative and we didn’t get it,” said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki in comments published by the Palestinian WAFA news agency.
“But we also succeeded in preventing the issuing of any statement that supports or allows the Emirates to go to Tuesday’s signing with Arab backing for normalising ties with Israel.”
A Saudi statement on remarks made by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud included no direct mention of the normalisation deal.
But the prince said Riyadh supported the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the borders in place before the 1967 Middle East war, with East Jerusalem as its capital, according to the statement.
The United States, Israel and the UAE have urged Palestinian leaders to re-engage with Israel. On a trip to the Emirates, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said Palestinians should not be “stuck in the past.”
In televised comments at the meeting, Maliki referred to the accord as a “surprise,” and an “earthquake” for Arab consensus, and voiced dismay at the failure to call an emergency Arab summit after the deal was announced.
But he avoided stronger words such as “betrayal” that Palestinian leaders had used in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.
“The language of denunciation and condemnation prevented agreement,” said UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, in an interview with Al Arabiya TV late on Wednesday, referring to the Palestinians.
Reporting by Ali Sawafta, Ahmed Tolba, Nidal Al Mughrabi, Maher Chmaytelli, Ulf Laessing, Stephen Farell, and Alaa Swilam, Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Matthew Lewis