US and Middle East allies show unity in Israel amid concerns over Iran

The Negev Summit in Sde Boker
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan pose for a photo during the Negev Summit in Sde Boker, Israel March 28, 2022. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS

March 28, 2022

By Humeyra Pamuk

SDE BOKER, Israel (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken demonstrated his unity with Middle East allies at one of Israel’s rare summits on Monday, hoping to ease their concerns about an imminent Iran nuclear deal and Washington’s commitment to the region to disperse .

The two-day desert retreat was further marred by US-Russia tensions over Ukraine, an Islamic State-linked attack in Israel and health concerns when Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was diagnosed with COVID-19 after a meeting with Blinken became.

The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, who normalized ties with Israel in a US diplomatic initiative in 2020, attended the summit in Sde Boker – where Israel’s founding minister David Ben-Gurion is buried.

The foreign minister of Egypt, which was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel in 1979, was also there.

“The moderates (of the region) are coming together to talk and form a front against the extremists,” Gil Haskel, an official with Israel’s foreign ministry, told public broadcaster Kan, referring to Iran’s Islamist rulers .

“There are nuances, different perspectives that are debated or argued about, there is some agreement on some issues and less on others — but there is no doubt in this room around the table that Iran must be non-nuclear.”

World powers’ nuclear talks with Iran were nearing a deal a few weeks ago, until Russia made last-minute demands on the United States, insisting that sanctions imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine would not affect its trade with Iran should.

Speaking in Jerusalem alongside his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid on Sunday, Blinken said restoring a 2015 nuclear deal is the best way to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

But he added: “When it comes to the most important thing, we agree. We are both determined, both determined that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon.”

Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

In another sign that the Allies are closing ranks against Iran, Israeli Ambassador to Manama Eitan Naeh said Monday that Israel would soon appoint a military attache to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain.

Blinken has urged Arab allies to step up support for Ukraine to stave off the Russian invasion, as several Gulf states have so far failed to provide meaningful assistance. Israel has tried to broker an end to the crisis by holding talks with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders.

Blinken also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday, where he expressed continued US commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, the prospect of a resumption of peace talks appears slim and Palestinians are angered by the warming in relations between Israel and the Arab states given the lack of any progress towards establishing an independent Palestinian state.

“As long as the occupation doesn’t end, Arab normalization meetings are nothing but an illusion and a free reward for Israel,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told his cabinet on Monday.

Jordan’s King Abdullah arrived in Ramallah Monday for talks with Abbas, a first such visit in years, which was expected to focus on efforts to ease regional tensions ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A State Department spokesman said Blinken is being tested for COVID-19 because he has been in close contact with Bennett. The senior US diplomat was spotted jogging ahead of the Sde Böker summit on Monday morning. (The story is refiled to remove superfluous material)

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ali Sawfta in Ramallah; letters by Maayan Lubell and Humeyra Pamuk, editing by Ed Osmond, William Maclean) US and Middle East allies show unity in Israel amid concerns over Iran

Bobby Allyn

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