The United Arab Emirates said its decision to normalize ties with Israel isn’t about countering Iran, and dismissed criticism of the pact from Turkey’s leader.
“This is not about Iran. This is about the UAE, Israel and the United States,” Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, said in a phone interview. “This is in no way meant to create some sort of grouping against Iran.”
While the Trump administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have sought to frame the agreement as part of their attempt to confront and further isolate Iran, Gargash signaled that the UAE isn’t looking to provoke its near neighbor.
“We have a very complicated relationship with Iran,” he said. “While we have our concerns, we feel also that resolving these issues should be through diplomacy and de-escalation.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Turkey could withdraw its ambassador to the UAE over the country’s agreement with Israel, saying it dealt a blow to Palestinian rights. Gargash dismissed the statement as a “double standard” which glossed over Turkey’s own significant trade links with Israel.
“They receive over half a million Israeli tourists, have $2 billion worth of bilateral trade and an existing embassy there. And I ask myself whether this is a principled position or not,” Gargash said.
Under the deal, Israel agreed to put aside for now its pledge to annex West Bank land the Palestinians want for a state. “We have been very concerned with the issue of annexation,” Gargash said. “Through this imaginative proclamation, we have at least been able to give negotiations space.”