Israel, UAE Envoys Meet; Saudi King’s Rare Appearance: UN Wrap


The United Nations General Assembly is taking place virtually this year but there’s still some in-person diplomacy happening on the sidelines.

Ambassadors for the United Arab Emirates and Israel used the opportunity to meet on Wednesday for the first time publicly since their nations reached a historic deal last week to formalize diplomatic relations. A previously scheduled meeting was canceled at the last minute.

Israeli envoy Gilad Erdan and UAE’s UN Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh discussed “the importance of increasing cooperation between the two countries” during a meeting at the UAE’s mission to the UN, according to a statement from the Israeli mission.

The meeting comes just over a week after the UAE and Bahrain signed landmark agreements at the White House to move toward establishing normal relations with Israel, setting in motion a potentially historic shift in Middle East politics.

Also during the UN General Assembly on Wednesday:

  • Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, 84, made his debut speech to the assembly virtually. Reading from prepared remarks, the king stuck mostly to script, assailing Iran for seeking weapons of mass destruction while reiterating support for a Palestinian state. While the king didn’t mention the historic peace accords between Israel and Saudi Arabia’s Gulf neighbors, he did say his government supports “all efforts to advance the peace process.”
  • After more than 50 male leaders’ speeches, the UN finally got to hear from a woman: Slovakia’s President Zuzana Caputova, the first woman in that job as well as the youngest president in the nation’s history, at 47. Her speech called for responsible leadership to avert a worsening pandemic and for rich countries to share vaccines with the rest of the world.
  • Palau, a tiny Pacific island nation and close U.S. ally, used its address to call for Taiwan’s inclusion in international organizations, a move certain to anger China. Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. regretted that Taiwan wasn’t able to participate in the World Health Assembly “at the very moment when the world needed to come together to respond to the pandemic.”
  • Lebanon’s inability to form a government and push through significant reforms in the wake of the August explosion at the country’s main port was the focus of a virtual meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon co-chaired by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. They met as Michel Aoun, Lebanon’s president, called on the world to help his country recover from the blast.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who would normally skip the assembly given economic and political turbulence at home, is scheduled to speak Wednesday evening. That’s a sign of how support for opposition leader Juan Guaido’s claim as the nation’s interim president by dozens of mostly western nations has stalled. Guaido will deliver virtual remarks on his Facebook page.
  • Finally, Russia’s disinformation efforts are doing more damage to the U.S. than any weapon ever developed by the former Soviet Union. That was the blunt message from Microsoft President Brad Smith during a side event, as he warned that “disinformation is not just leading to a public that is less well informed, but to a public that is more polarized.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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