Israel FM met mystery 'Arab counterpart' at UN summit

Israel FM met mystery 'Arab counterpart' at UN summit
Israel Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz met with a 'senior Arab official' for the third time in three months as normalisation between Israel and the Gulf states.
2 min read
24 September, 2019
Katz represented Israel at the UN General Assembly as Netanyahu remained in coalition talks [Getty]
Israel's acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz has said he met with the chief diplomat of an unspecified Arab country with which Israel does not have official relations during the UN General Assembly on Monday, adding fuel to speculation that many Arab countries are seeking to normalise ties with the country.

Writing on Twitter, Katz said: "A first, fascinating meeting yesterday on the sidelines of the UN meeting with one of the Arab foreign ministers."

"We discussed in depth the regional realities and ways to deal with the Iranian threat, while at the same time agreeing on a process for promoting civilian cooperation between the two countries. A new and challenging reality," he added.

The Gulf Arab states are notably warming ties with Israel, with Katz having met Bahrain's foreign minister at a conference in Washington in August and a senior Emirati official at another conference in July.

Katz previously stated at a meeting of the Israeli Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that normalising ties with Arab countries was one of his top priorities.

"My goal, with the full backing of the prime minister, is to work toward open normalisation, to widen it and make it public and to reach diplomatic agreements" with Arab countries, Katz reportedly said at the meeting in August.

Katz has stepped in as Israel's representative at the annual UN summit, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled out of the trip due to a deadlock in negotiations over forming a new coalition in Israel.

Amid rising tensions between Israel and regional adversaries Iran and Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants, Israel under Netanyahu has been building security ties with Gulf Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.

Lucrative economic ties are also on the table, such as a purported deal to build a gas pipeline to provide Saudi Arabia with a supply of Israel's natural gas.

Gulf rulers have come under harsh criticism for their perceived abandonment of support for Palestinian statehood and the rights of millions of Palestinians living under occupation.