BERLIN (AP) — The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Israel are meeting in Berlin on Tuesday for talks that Germany hopes will strengthen nascent ties between the two nations and bolster broader Middle East peace efforts.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it was a “great honor that the Israeli and Emirati foreign ministers have chosen Berlin as the location for their historic first meeting” since the two countries agreed to normalize relations in a U.S.-brokered deal.
The agreement, signed at a White House ceremony last month, reflects the changing politics of the Middle East, in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians, who reject the deal as a betrayal.
“The most important currency in diplomacy is trust, and I am personally grateful to both of my colleagues for placing this trust in Germany,” Maas said in a statement. “We are doing everything we can to be good hosts for the dialogue between the two countries on how to shape their future bilateral relations.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan were to meet, along with Maas, behind closed doors at a secluded government guest house on the outskirts of the German capital.
Maas said the “courageous peace agreement” between the two countries is “the first good news from the Mideast in a long time, and at the same time an opportunity for new movement in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Germany is a strong supporter of Israel, but at the same time has been critical of its settlement policies and also works closely with the Palestinians and is in favor of a Palestinian state as part of a “two state” solution.
Maas said “courage and trust” are what is needed in the Middle East peace process.
“We must seize this opportunity, and Germany and Europe want to help,” Maas said. “I hope that Berlin can offer a good framework to discuss further steps on this path.”