June 9, 2023

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Blinken in Israel a “historic” meeting with Nasser Bourita and Arab leaders

Blinken in Israel a "historic" meeting with Nasser Bourita and Arab leaders

to meMr. Blinken arrived Saturday night in Tel Aviv and is scheduled to meet on Sunday afternoon with his counterparts from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain and Egypt in Sde Boker in southern Israel. The meeting was described as “historic” by Yair Lapid, the head of Israeli diplomacy. The UAE normalized relations with Israel in 2020 under a series of US-brokered agreements known as the “Abraham Accords”. Bahrain followed suit.

These agreements broke with decades of the Arab consensus, which stipulated the establishment of relations with Israel with a solution to the Palestinian issue.

Leaving Poland on Saturday, where he was accompanying US President Joe Biden, Mr. Blinken will remain in Israel until Monday when he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. He must also go to Ramallah for an interview with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinians worry that they will be marginalized in US-backed efforts to strengthen ties between Arab states and Israel. US support has fallen dramatically under the presidency of Donald Trump.

The Secretary of State wants to show that the United States is not losing interest in the Middle East, even if it appears that Washington’s attention is directed above all toward China, and most recently Ukraine.

On Monday, Mr. Blinken will continue his tour in Algeria and then in Morocco, where he will meet in particular with the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed.

He hopes to garner support for US and NATO efforts to counter the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in a context marked by the war’s severe economic consequences, notably soaring energy prices and the threat of wheat shortages. Which could deal a severe blow to Arab countries.

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Another topic that Mr. Blinken will touch on: the negotiations in Vienna on Iran’s nuclear energy. The United States and Iran are currently in the final stages of indirect talks aimed at reviving the 2015 agreement that is supposed to prevent Tehran from obtaining the atomic bomb, in return for the lifting of sanctions choking the Iranian economy.

The agreement collapsed after Washington’s unilateral withdrawal in 2018, decided by Donald Trump, and the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, which in response gradually freed itself from restrictions on its nuclear program.

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said, on Saturday, that the conclusion of an agreement, which is under negotiation between the great powers, is “a matter of days,” while the European Union coordinator responsible for overseeing talks with Iran Enrique Mora said, is expected in the evening in Tehran.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday that the deal is “neither imminent nor confirmed.”

The prospect of such a deal worries Israel and America’s Gulf allies, who view Tehran as a threat.

In February, Naftali Bennett said he feared the deal would not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Tehran, for its part, denies its desire to possess the atomic bomb.