Map of the Middle East

The New York Times is reporting that Israel has agreed to suspend plans to annex disputed areas of the West Bank as part of a deal to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates.

In a surprise statement issued by the White House, President Trump said that Israel and the U.A.E. will sign a string of bilateral agreements on investment, tourism, security, technology, energy and other areas while moving to allow direct flights between their countries and set up reciprocal embassies in each other’s nations.

The statement, which referred to the two countries as “two of America’s most reliable and capable regional partners,” said that Israel and the UAE will sign agreements in the coming weeks related to investment, tourism, air travel, security, opening embassies and more. The two nations also will work together on developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, it said.

The Gulf states have been growing closer with Israel in recent years, but the UAE is the first to establish formal ties with the Jewish state. The countries share a goal of countering Iranian influence in the Middle East.

Most Arab countries do not recognize Israel’s existence. The Jewish state currently has ties only with Egypt and Jordan.

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