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KT special: Israeli minister optimistic about Saudi Arabia signing peace deal next

On September 15 this year, the UAE and Bahrain signed the US-brokered peace deal, normalising relations with Israel.

Israel’s foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi is optimistic about Saudi Arabia signing the Abraham Accords next, after the UAE and Bahrain.

“Saudi Arabia is a major player in the region. It is a very important country in the region and we are the first to recognise it, and I think it will be significant if they join,” Ashkenazi, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

“I am very optimistic about it because they are already very supportive, they support the UAE decision, they support the Bahraini decision."

On September 15 this year, the UAE and Bahrain signed the US-brokered peace deal, normalising relations with Israel.

Ashkenazi said Saudi Arabia has tangibly contributed to the success of the deed as they allowed Israeli airlines to fly over the Saudi sky. “It is evident that they are moving in the right direction.”

“They need their time. We understand and we are not pushing.”

Mutual stand with GCC on Iran threat

The foreign minister said the region has changed and that he expects that Israel and other GCC countries are on the same page when it comes to countering threats from Iran. “And we may expect.. and you will see that.. mutual voice and standing when it comes to a stress in the region.”

“I don’t think it will surprise you that like most of the other countries in the region, we are on the same page, when it comes to stopping Iran from getting this nuclear capability. And we are on the same page when it comes to the Iran’s malign activities in the region. We are on the same page when it comes to preventing Iran from helping the terrorist organisations and supporting extremism in the region.”

On fast track with UAE

Ashkenazi said both the UAE and Israel are on a fast track after signing the peace deal as there is a “mutual understanding that we have to seize the moment and not to lose momentum ‘cause there’s still excitement here”.

“It is not just only the bilateral relationship, I think it’s a message to the region that it is time to change the course.”

He said that in the next five years, there will be an ecosystem in the region with other countries, where the base axis is the UAE and Israel.

“We have many things in similar...entrepreneurial spirit, the value of education, the willingness to contain others and to accept the differences and diverse opinion. Fairly moderate society, young societies who are interested in the future and not in the past.”

In the next five years, both Israel and the UAE will have a better future, the minister said.

“I think we will have a better connection, I think we will have a better understanding of each other, I think the region will be more stable, more safe and more connected.”