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Israel seeks 'non-aggression' pacts with Gulf Arab states

Treaties could pave way to full peace deals with countries, Israel's foreign minister says, after years of warming relations
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz addresses the United Nations General Assembly in September, when he is said to have held talks with Gulf Arab officials (Reuters)

Israel hopes to pave the way to possible peace deals with Gulf Arab countries by seeking "non-aggression" agreements with them, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Sunday. 

Despite not being formally recognised by Gulf Arab neighbours, Israel has increasingly boasted of improving contacts and cooperation. Details of the proposal were not made public.

Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory has long served as a major factor preventing peace deals with Arab countries, which have made a settlement with Palestinians a condition for recognising Israel.

Common concerns over Iran are widely seen as having brought them closer in recent years, however.

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"Recently, I have been promoting, under the backing of the United States, a political initiative to sign 'non-aggression agreements' with the Arab Gulf states," Katz wrote on Twitter.

"The historic move will put an end to the conflict and allow civilian cooperation until peace agreements are signed."

Katz said he discussed the initiative with unnamed Arab foreign ministers and US President Donald Trump's outgoing envoy Jason Greenblatt while attending the United Nations General Assembly in late September.

A spokesman for Katz declined to provide further details for now, and it was not clear how much progress he has made in the endeavour.

Only two Arab countries - Jordan and Egypt - have peace treaties with Israel, but there have been overt signs in recent months of improved relations with Gulf states.

A year ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held surprise talks with Oman's Sultan Qaboos in Muscat.

Katz in July said he had met his Bahraini counterpart publicly for the first time during a visit to Washington.

In late June, a group of Israeli journalists attended the US-led economic conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace in Bahrain.