Pompeo starts Middle East tour in Israel

AFP , Monday 24 Aug 2020

Netanyahu said Sunday he and Pompeo would talk about 'expanding the circle of peace in our region'

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departs a meeting with members of the U.N. Security Council about Iran's alleged non-compliance with a nuclear deal at the United Nations in New York, August 20, 2020. (AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel on Monday to start a five-day Middle East tour focused on Israel's peace deal with the United Arab Emirates and pushing other Arab states to follow suit.

Pompeo, wearing a face mask in the colours of the US flag, was due to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in coming days also visit Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE, the State Department said.

In Jerusalem, Pompeo and Netanyahu were due to discuss "regional security issues related to Iran's malicious influence" and "establishing and deepening Israel's relationships in the region," the State Department said.

Netanyahu said Sunday he and Pompeo would talk about "expanding the circle of peace in our region ... We're working on peace with more countries, and I think there will be more countries -- and in the not-so-distant future."

Israel had previously only signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan, announced in January, forsees cooperation between Israel and those Arab countries.

The pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom said on Sunday that direct talks with the UAE on the wording of the deal were close to starting and that "a full agreement could be reached within a month" with a signing at the White House.

Bahrain, Oman, Sudan?

Under the US-brokered agreement announced on August 13, Israel pledged to suspend its previous plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, without saying for how long.

The Palestinians have slammed the UAE's move as a "stab in the back" while their own conflict with Israel remains unresolved.

The UAE ambassador to Washington, writing in Israel's Yediot Aharonot newspaper, argued that closer ties would benefit everybody and "help move the region beyond the ugly legacy of hostility and conflicts, towards a destiny of hope, peace and prosperity".

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which for years supported hardline Islamist forces.

The State Department said Pompeo would meet Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during his tour, to "express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship".

Pompeo will also meet Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa before meeting UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, it said.

Saudi Arabia, in keeping with decades of policy by the majority of Arab states, has said it will not make peace deal until Israel has signed a peace deal with the Palestinians.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online 

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