Written by: Kate Norman
Article source: www.bridgesforpeace.com

The foreign ministers from Israel and the United Arab Emirates had their first face-to-face meeting since the two countries signed the historic peace accords in Washington last month.

Meeting in Berlin, Israeli Prime Minister Gabi Ashkenazi met his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the German capital for talks to further increase cooperation between the new peace partners. Their meeting, according to their host, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, “shows that peaceful coexistence in the Middle East is possible.”

Their visit included a significant trip to Berlin’s Holocaust memorial—which was notably Al Nahyan’s idea, according to Israeli Walla news.

The Arab and Jewish diplomats signed the Holocaust memorial guestbook side by side, Ashkenazi’s entry in Hebrew alongside Al Nahyan’s in Arabic—the Emirati minister adding the words “Never Again” in English at the bottom.

“A whole group of humanity fell victim to those calling for extremism and hatred,” the UAE foreign minister wrote, pointing out that their joint visit to the site “underscored the importance of human values such as coexistence, tolerance and accepting the other…These are the values upon which my country was founded.”

Ashkenazi wrote that their meeting “symbolizes the beginning of a new era. An era of peace between peoples. Our joint signature in the book of remembrance is like a shared cry and oath: to remember and not to forget, to be strong and to promise ‘never again.’”

While touring the Holocaust memorial site, the Emirati foreign minister learned that his Israeli counterpart’s parents were Holocaust survivors, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and was “surprised to hear this and asked to hear more.”

“Minister Ashkenazi told him of his roots and his father who survived a labor camp in Bulgaria in 1944 and about his immigration to Israel,” the Foreign Ministry reported.

It’s the beginning of what has been called “the dawn of a new era in the Middle East,” where an Israeli diplomat joins with his Arab and German counterparts to visit a memorial to the murder of over six million Jews—ending with statements from the Arab and Israeli ministers referring to each other as “my friend.”

Last month, the UAE and Bahrain became the third and fourth Arab states to sign official peace agreements with the Jewish state, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Hours after the historic meeting in Berlin on Tuesday, an Egyptian TV station broadcasted a speech by Ashkenazi. The foreign minister’s spokesperson put the significance into context, pointing out that an Egyptian channel broadcast an Israeli diplomat discussing peace in the region on the anniversary of the beginning of the 1973 Yom Kippur War—fought when Egypt led a coalition of Arab states in a surprise attack on Israel.

The broadcast, in context of its historical and political significance, was “most extraordinary,” the spokesperson said. Indeed, several of Tuesday’s events were most extraordinary, marking a shift in attitude and dynamics in the Middle East and around the world.

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Date published: 10/10/2020
Feature image: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin, Germany. unsplash.com

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