FOR a long time, one couldn’t imagine ties between Israel and Arab states. It was assumed that Israel would at least withdraw from the land it had occupied before ties would be considered.

However, times have changed. Israel and some Gulf states seem to share Israel’s view of Iran. The UAE especially seems moving closer to Israel.

On Aug 13, it became official. The UAE and Israel were to establish full diplomatic ties. This agreement has become known as the Abraham Accord, in which (at least according to the Emiratis) Israel will drop the planned annexation of Palestinian lands.

However, everyone knows this is a farce as even the Israeli prime minister said that after the Aug 13 announcement the annexation would continue. The deal was lambasted by the Palestinians, and on the international forum by Iran and Turkey.

The deal shows how divided the Muslim world has become as it has split into two blocs — a US-aligned Saudi-UAE bloc, and an Iranian-Turkish (and to a lesser extent Qatari) bloc.

All over the Middle East these two sides are engaged in proxy wars, particularly in Libya where the UAE supports Khalifa Haftar, while Turkey supports the GNA government.

Turkey has recently claimed a large discovery of gas in the Mediterranean, which it claims will meet its gas needs for 20 years. There has been a dispute between Greece and Turkey about economic zones in the Mediterranean.

In this dispute, the UAE supports Greece, which recently signed a maritime deal with Egypt which was condemned by the Turkish foreign ministry.

Turkey’s ties have only recently soured with the Gulf states over the last 10 years or so under the tenure of the Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One main reason was Turkey’s backing for the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood (claimed a terrorist organisation by the UAE and Saudi Arabia) government which was soon overthrown by the Egyptian military.

Saudi Arabia was the first country to welcome the coup and the UAE has been a staunch supporter of the coup leader and the country’s current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Another reason was Turkey’s support for Qatar after the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a blockade on the tiny state.

This split poses a severe challenge for Pakistan which has close ties with both Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Saudi Arabia provides the country with strong economic support but has remained silent on Kashmir, while Turkey has strongly denounced India’s policies in Kashmir.

Pakistan backed out of the 2019 Kuala Lumpur summit after the Saudi-UAE bloc expressed it displeasure. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the foreign minister, recently made an unusually strong statement regarding Saudi Arabia’s reluctance to organise an OIC foreign minister’s meeting on the issue.

Pakistan needs to be careful for even one wrong statement can engulf the country in a severe diplomatic crisis which may hurt Pakistan’s interests.

Amaan Yasser Effendi
Lahore

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2020

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