Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was the guest of honour at a reception last night marking the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords, declaring the UK's "commitment to the Accords and all they represent."
In his keynote address, Mr Sunak acknowledged that progress in the Middle East can be a "hard road", and extolled the "new era of relations" between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco that the Abraham Accords ushered in.
Addressing more than 250 guests, Mr Sunak said: "Today, we send a clear message about our commitment to the Accords and all that they represent. The Accords have kickstarted a new era of relations in trade, tourism, security, and more. This is the dividend of diplomacy."
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak extolled the "new era of relations" between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco (Photo via ELNET)
He went on to outline the tangible progress made since the signing of the Accords in 2020: "Israel and the UAE signed a free-trade agreement in May; it could double bilateral trade within just five years. With the introduction of direct flights, tourism has boomed. Almost half a million Israeli tourists have now travelled to the UAE in just two years, from a nation of nine million people. And Israel and Bahrain have now signed over 40 MOUs [memoranda of understanding], including a major bilateral defence agreement increasing resilience to shared threats.
"This would have been impossible just a few years ago. But it does show how we can transform peace and stability in the region. The United Kingdom is committed to working with you all to take this initiative from strength to strength because we all know that progress in the Middle East can be a hard road. It is almost exactly 45 years since Anwar Sadat first reached out and travelled to Israel to address the Knesset. It was a brave, historic step towards peaceful coexistence."
Concluding his address, he told the gathered dignitaries: "With the Abraham Accords, our generation took up the torch. Now, we must continue the journey. We must show that by working together more closely, we can deliver lasting peace, stability, and prosperity. And more than anything, we can deliver hope."
Mr Sunak's speech underlines a commitment from the UK to continue its engagement in the Middle East and to continue building on the historic Accords.
That commitment from the prime minister was underscored by Dr Liam Fox MP, chair of the UK Abraham Accords Group, in his remarks after Mr Sunak's speech: "Normally when we invite prime ministers to events, it's quite a long persuasion. It took three minutes..."
The event was chaired by Joan Ryan of executive director of ELNET UK (a pro-Israel advocacy group), and the event was also hosted by the UK Abraham Accords Group, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The dignitaries in attendance included the ambassadors of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, who took part in a panel discussing the awards from the perspectives of their countries, and they were awarded individual, engraved sculptures by Israeli artist Arik Levy to mark the occasion.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, spoke about the role of the UK in the Middle East: "Due to this historic role in the region, and its contemporary prominence, I think that the UK has got a unique responsibility to support and promote the Accords."
She added: "I really want to thank the prime minister and the government for their support of the Jewish community."