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Peace with Israel makes UAE ‘more connected’ to region: Emirati official

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Peace with Israel makes the UAE “more connected to the region,” an Emirati official told Al Arabiya English on Tuesday amid criticism from its neighbor Iran that the normalization of relations is treasonous.

“This peace is a hopeful, exciting change, that makes us feel more connected to the region and less constrained,” said Hend Al Otaiba, director of strategic communications at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We have a feeling here in the UAE of moving forward, making change on our own terms rather than waiting for change to come to us,” she added.

The remarks came as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Tuesday that the UAE will be “disgraced forever” for making peace with Israel.

An airplane of Israel’s El Al, upon its arrival at the Abu Dhabi airport in the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE, on August 31, 2020. (AFP)
An airplane of Israel’s El Al, upon its arrival at the Abu Dhabi airport in the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE, on August 31, 2020. (AFP)

“They allowed the Zionist regime to enter the region…I hope they wake up and compensate for what they did,” said Khamenei in a speech, according to Iranian state news.

The condemnation follows the first direct flight from Israel to the UAE in history on Monday and the meeting of American, Israeli, and Emirati representatives in the capital city Abu Dhabi.

Iranian leadership, which routinely calls for the destruction of the “Zionist regime” in Israel, has repeatedly voiced its disapproval of the agreement between Israel and the UAE.

Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaking via a video conference with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on May 10, 2020. (AFP)
Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaking via a video conference with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on May 10, 2020. (AFP)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called the deal “a huge mistake, a treacherous act,” following the announcement of peace.

“They [the UAE] better be mindful,” Rouhani said in a speech.

In response, the UAE government summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires in Abu Dhabi on August 16 and called Rouhani’s statements “inflammatory and carrying serious repercussions for the security and stability of the Arabian Gulf region,” according to state news agency WAM.

Other Gulf neighbors, Bahrain and Oman, have welcomed the UAE-Israel agreement, and both said the accord will contribute to regional security.

Al Otaiba said a “new dimension” has opened for the UAE since the agreement, known as the Abraham Accord, was first announced on August 13.

“I believe the adjustment to relations will be quite natural. Both the UAE and Israel are ready for it, and both countries are dynamic, forward looking global societies eager to make positive change in so many areas,” said Al Otaiba.

“The biggest changes are not the day to day interactions, but what we will achieve together for the future,” she added.

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