UAE ‘condemned PA security coordination with Israel’ in heated exchange

The Emirati foreign minister and a Palestinian official clashed during a meeting with Antony Blinken in April, according to an Axios report

MEE staff

UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan is pictured in Budapest, Hungary, on 2 April 2024 (AFP/Attila Kisbendek)
UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan is pictured in Budapest, Hungary, on 2 April 2024 (AFP/Attila Kisbendek)

A meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Arab officials in late April was disrupted by a shouting match between the UAE‘s foreign minister and a senior adviser to the Palestinian president, according to an Axios report published on Thursday. 

The incident took place during a meeting on Israel‘s war on Gaza on 29 April in Riyadh, at the sidelines of a World Economic Forum meeting, five sources told Axios.

During the meeting, Hussein al-Sheikh, a deputy to President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinian Authority (PA) was taking steps to conduct reforms and create a new government but was not receiving enough support from the US and Arab countries. 

Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan rejected this claim, saying he had seen little reform in the PA, the sources said. 

Two sources reported that the foreign minister called the Palestinian leadership “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves” and “useless”, adding that “replacing them with one another will only lead to the same result”. 

He asked: “Why would the UAE give assistance to the Palestinian Authority without real reforms?”

Sheikh shouted back that nobody could dictate to the PA how it should conduct its reforms, the sources said.

An Emirati official cited by Axios confirmed Abdullah bin Zayed’s remarks, stating: “His Highness added that if the Palestinian Authority paid as much attention to its own people as it does to security coordination with Israel, the Palestinians will be in much better shape.”

Abdullah bin Zayed reportedly left the room angrily before returning with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and apologising to Blinken. 

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait were also at the meeting. 

Emirati-PA tensions

Relations between the Palestinian and Emirati leadership have been strained for several years.

One of Abbas’s political rivals, exiled Palestinian politician Mohammed Dahlan, lives in the UAE and is a key adviser to President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.  

The comments by the foreign minister about PA security coordination with Israel are noteworthy, given that the UAE was the first of four countries – including Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan –  to normalise relations with Israel in 2020 under the so-called Abraham Accords spearheaded by then-US President Donald Trump. 

This normalisation includes closer military and security relations, with officials from Israel and the Emirates confirming that it would involve collaborating on “shared security interests”.

Palestinian politicians have condemned the UAE and other countries for establishing ties with Israel, accusing them of breaking a long-standing Arab position of rejecting normalisation until a Palestinian state was formed. 

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