Foreign ministers of Israel and UAE meet in Berlin
The foreign ministers of Israel and the United Arab Emirates visited the Holocaust Memorial in central Berlin during their "historic" first meeting in the German capital on Tuesday.
Israel's Gabi Ashkenazi and his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan bumped elbows in line with measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus, as they met face-to-face for the first time after their countries signed a US-brokered deal in mid-September to normalise relations.
The deal has been rejected and condemned as a “betrayal” by the Palestinians who point out that Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem and besiege the Gaza Strip, denying Palestinian rights to self-determination.
Ashkenazi became Israel’s foreign minister in 2020. During the 2008-2009 Israeli war on Gaza, he served as Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, overseeing a conflict that killed thousands of Palestinian civilians.
Accompanied by their host, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the pair walked through the sombre Holocaust memorial, a vast undulating labyrinth of more than 2,700 grey concrete blocks spread over an area equivalent to three football fields.
It commemorates the slaughter of six million Jews by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.
The visit by Sheikh Abdullah to the Holocaust Memorial was portrayed by media as a symbolic step, marking a shift in attitudes in the Arab world towards Israel and Jews.
The Israel-Palestine conflict has led to tensions between Jews and Muslims around the world.
Maas called it "a great honour that the Israeli and Emirati foreign ministers picked Berlin as the site for their historic first meeting.
"The most important currency in diplomacy is trust and I am personally thankful to both my colleagues that they are placing this trust in Germany."
Bahrain and the UAE became the first Arab nations to establish relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Arab observers have called the two Gulf states’ move a violation of the 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative, which promises Israel normal relations only in return for the evacuation of occupied Palestinian territory.
Maas, however, called the agreement between Israel and the UAE "the first good news in the Middle East for a long time -- and a chance for new movement in the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians".
Agencies contributed to this report.