Israel to host top Arab diplomats during Blinken’s visit


Israel said Friday it would host the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain during U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit early next week.

The three Arab countries normalized relations with Israel in 2020 in the so-called Abraham Accords. The Biden administration welcomed those agreements, which were concluded under then-President Donald Trump, and has expressed interest in negotiating additional ones.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it would host the four top diplomats on Sunday and Monday, with additional details to be provided later.

Blinken will visit Israel, the occupied West Bank, Morocco and Algeria starting this weekend, as U.S. diplomacy faces serious tests related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as Middle Eastern regional issues.

In Israel, Blinken plans to speak with Israeli officials about their efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. He will also update them on the status of talks aimed at reviving Iran’s nuclear deal. Efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian dialogue will also be on the agenda.

“The secretary will emphasize to all of the foreign leaders he meets that the United States stands in solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine in the face of the Kremlin’s aggression,” the State Department said Thursday.

Israel was strongly opposed to the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers and welcomed Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from it. Israel has warned against reviving the agreement and says it will not be bound by any new deal.

Israel has meanwhile walked a fine line between Russia and Ukraine since hostilities began last month. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has expressed support for the Ukrainian people but stopped short of condemning Russia’s invasion, and in recent weeks has served as a mediator.

Israel regularly conducts airstrikes on what it says are hostile Iranian military targets in neighboring Syria. Such strikes must be coordinated with Russia, which intervened in Syria’s civil war in 2015 on the side of President Bashar Assad. Russia is also a party to the Iran talks.

Assad was in the UAE last week, marking his first visit to an Arab country since the Syrian uprising began in 2011. The UAE, a U.S. ally and the driving force behind the Abraham Accords, has also sought to avoid angering Russia.

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