Israel-UAE sign historic deal to begin diplomatic ties

Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Irvine

Israel and the United Arab Emirates will establish full diplomatic ties after the two countries reached an historic peace deal.

The announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state to do so and only the third Arab nation to have active diplomatic ties to Israel.

US president Donald Trump said Israel will halt planned annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state as part of the agreement.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Mr Trump described the agreement as a "truly historic moment".

The deal marks a diplomatic win for Trump ahead of November's election, with the UAE and Israel being among Trump's closest foreign allies during his term in office.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had sought to build settlements on lands sought by the Palestinians and embraced a Trump proposal that would allow him to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank while granting Palestinians limited autonomy in other areas. For Palestine, it marks both a win and a setback.

While Thursday’s deal halts Israeli annexation plans, the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalize relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi wrote on Twitter: “Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation. “Please don’t do us a favor. We are nobody’s fig leaf!”

A joint statement by the leaders of the UAE, Israel and the US said: “Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations."

It said delegations will meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and healthcare. The two countries also will also partner on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Among Arab nations, only Egypt and Jordan have active diplomatic ties with Israel.

Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.

Mauritania recognised Israel in 1999 but later ended relations in 2009 over the Israel’s war in Gaza at the time.