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Trump thanks UAE and Israel for 'peace deal' in campaign speech

Several speakers at Republican convention hail US president's pro-Israel moves as foreign-policy achievements
'He promised to end national security travel bans from jihadist nations,' Trump says of Joe Biden (AFP)
By Ali Harb in Washington

President Donald Trump thanked the United Arab Emirates and Israel in a speech at the Republican national convention, hailing the normalisation deal between the two countries as a historic foreign-policy achievement for his administration.

Speaking from the Rose Garden of the White House to a partisan audience on Thursday night, the US president presented his Middle East policies as a great success in making his case for another four years in the Oval Office.

"This month we achieved the first Middle East peace deal in 25 years. Thank you to the UAE; thank you to Israel," Trump said.

The UAE and Israel, which had been forging public - albeit unofficial - ties for the past few years, agreed earlier this month to establish diplomatic relations in a move seen as a foreign policy victory that may boost Trump's reelection chances.

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On Thursday, Trump said the Middle East was "in total chaos" before he took office. 

He talked up his record of exiting the Iran nuclear deal, killing Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognising Israel's claimed sovereignty over Syria's Golan Heights. 

Trump also celebrated the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was targeted by a US air strike in Baghdad early in 2020. "We eliminated the world's number one terrorist by far, Qassem Soleimani," the US president said.

The multilateral nuclear accord saw Tehran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions against its economy. Trump nixed the agreement in 2018, and since then has been piling on sanctions against the Iranian economy as part of a "maximum pressure" campaign that has spiked tensions across the Middle East.

Still, on Thursday, he portrayed himself as an anti-war president, though Washington and Tehran came to the verge of an all-out conflict after the killing of Soleimani. 

"Unlike previous administrations I have kept America out of new wars, and our troops are coming home," Trump told a cheerful crowd that included administration officials and Republican delegates.

Taking aim at Joe Biden's immigration policy, Trump defended his "Muslim ban" executive order, which restricted travel from several Muslim-majority countries. As a candidate in 2015, Trump had vowed to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. 

In his first week in office, he signed a ban on travel from seven nations, which caused chaos at airports and protests across the country. After a lengthy court battle, the Supreme Court upheld a revised version of the order in 2018. 

"He promised to end national security travel bans from jihadist nations, and he pledged to increase refugee admissions by 700 percent," Trump said of Biden on Thursday.

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Holding the Republican event at the White House had raised concerns of Trump abusing the power of the presidency for political reasons.

On Tuesday, the convention aired a speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he had pre-recorded in Jerusalem while on an official visit to Israel.

Pompeo lauded the embassy move to Jerusalem, which he called "the rightful capital of the Jewish homeland".

The embassy move and Trump's pro-Israel policies became a theme throughout the convention, with several speakers citing them as achievements. 

"Joe Biden treated Israel like a nuisance, President Trump moved our embassy to Jerusalem and brokered peace deals in the Middle East," Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas said earlier on Thursday. 

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