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Blinken urges more normalization with Israel on anniversary

Published: Updated:

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Friday on more Arab nations to recognize Israel as he met four ministers on the anniversary of a normalization accord.

“We will encourage more countries to follow the lead of the Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy,” Blinken said in a virtual meeting with ministers of the three countries as well as Israel.

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The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, followed soon afterward by Morocco, last year normalized ties with Israel in the first such moves by Arab states in decades.

Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain’s FM Abdullatif Al Zayani and UAE FM Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan wave from the White House balcony, Sept. 15, 2020. (Reuters)
Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain’s FM Abdullatif Al Zayani and UAE FM Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan wave from the White House balcony, Sept. 15, 2020. (Reuters)

Then-president Donald Trump considered the so-called Abraham Accords to be a key diplomatic win – and Blinken made clear that President Joe Biden did not disagree.

“This administration will continue to build on the successful efforts of the last administration to keep normalization marching forward.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid – like Blinken, representing a new administration after the accord forged by a right-wing government – also voiced hope to expand recognition.

He said that he would visit Bahrain later this month in a first visit by an Israeli foreign minister.

“We have to also mention the fact that this Abraham Accords club is open for new members,” Lapid said.

“One of our common goals is to make sure that other countries will follow suit and join us in this accords and in this new era of cooperation and friendship.”

Critics of the Trump approach had accused him of advancing Arab reconciliation with Israel as a substitute for meaningful efforts to advance the rights of the Palestinians, who refused mediation by the previous administration, which it saw as biased.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said that the normalization was no substitute for an accord with the Palestinians.

“Morocco believes that there is no other alternative to a two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state,” he said.

Notably absent from Friday’s commemoration was Sudan, whose new civilian-backed government – desperate for US support – promised Trump to move forward with Israel but has since been hesitant in the face of public opposition.

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