Greece and the new Middle East

Greece and the new Middle East

The accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is set to be signed at the White House today. The ceremony will also be attended by Bahrain, which became the fourth Arab country, after Egypt, Jordan and the UAE, to recognize Israel. Israel, for its part, is stepping back from its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs sees the so-called Abraham Accord as a potentially “major step for the establishment of dialogue and mutual understanding between the peoples of the Middle East” and has also welcomed Bahrain’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. The historic deal and its impact on international affairs came to the center of attention during a virtual discussion of B’nai B’rith Israel-Hellenic Forum that the author co-convenes.

It is necessary for Greece to carefully monitor changes in the Middle East landscape. Although the Palestinian cause has not lost support among Arab countries, it arguably is no longer considered a priority. Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and some other Arab states place more emphasis on Iran. This is also the case for the American administration which brokered the Abraham Accord. Greece needs to find a delicate balance between its historical ties with the Palestinians as well as Iran and the new Middle East realities.

Athens continuously supports the prospect of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and is aligned with the European Union position on Iran, although it certainly understands Israeli security concerns.

Additionally, Turkey appears highly critical of the normalization of ties between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. In his effort to take the lead in the Muslim world, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is highly concerned about the consolidation of the alignment of other regional powers that might also encompass additional Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia in the future.

This entails both opportunities and risks for the Greek government. While Greece along with Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have some common interests at stake in the Eastern Mediterranean – for example in Libya – the country sometimes gives the impression it is entering an obscure military environment that contradicts its peace-loving philosophy. Another midway solution is required here.

Last but not least, President Donald Trump has shown he is able to score some significant foreign policy points. Whether the Abraham Accord, which was also followed by the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, could be a precursor for a successful mediation in the Eastern Mediterranean remains to be seen. No doubt Trump delivers when he wants to.

Under the circumstances, Greece could intensify its effort to better promote its positions in the US. The momentum after the Abraham Accord favors the effort that should rather aim at both the president and the Congress.

* Dr George Tzogopoulos is a senior fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and Centre International de Formation Européenne (CIFE), and teaches international relations at the Democritus University of Thrace.

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