US plans Mideast regional summit: ‘Wheels of peace have begun to turn’

Summit to take place in Gulf country with U.S. trying to recruit more Arab countries to recognize Israel.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the Middle East as part of a U.S. effort to convene a Middle East peace summit in the next few weeks.

A senior official from the United Arab Emirates told Israel Hayom that Pompeo’s five-day visit to the region that began Sunday in Jerusalem is designed to drum up support for the summit that is expected to take place in a Gulf country in September.

Sources said the U.S. is trying to recruit the participation of Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Sudan, and Chad, alongside Israel and the UAE. The summit will try to build on the recent announcement that the UAE had agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, the first Arab country to do so in 25 years.

Egypt and Jordan, which already have peace treaties with Israel, have yet to confirm their participation and Saudi Arabia, a key player in the region, has also not announced its intentions.

The diplomat told Israel Hayom that even before Pompeo’s arrival the Palestinians had been invited to the summit, but Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian Authority officials rejected the invitation outright. The Palestinians went so far as to send a message to the Americans that “Pompeo is not wanted in Ramallah,” the UAE official said.

“The Palestinian position is very saddening. They were given an opportunity to deescalate the situation with a respectful invitation to take part in a regional peace conference, and they rejected it out of hand with no reasonable explanation,” the official told the paper.

The Palestinians have to come to grips with the fact that the wheels of peace have started to turn, and peace and normalization will come with or without the Palestinians even if they continue to be defiant,” he added.

From Israel on Tuesday, Pompeo flew to Sudan for discussions with Sudanese leaders who last week were revealed to have had secret talks to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Though they officially denied it.

Israel, the UAE and the Trump administration are hoping that other Arab countries will follow suit and establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

UAE officials last week downplayed Palestinian objections to their recognition of Israel, saying that the deal was to the Palestinians’ advantage as it stopped Israel from applying sovereignty over settlements in Judea and Samaria, something the Palestinians had opposed.