The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates made a ground-breaking visit to the Holocaust memorial in Berlin last week.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan visited Germany’s main Holocaust memorial with his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, in a visit hosted by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that was described by Mr Ashkenazi as a “historic moment”.
Both sides have pointed to a sense of reconciliation and mutual tolerance as a driver of the deal – a message that the UAE Foreign Minister expressed at Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Writing in the visitors’ book in Arabic, he called the site a memorial to “victims of advocates of extremism and hatred”. He then referred to “the noble human values of co-existence, tolerance…and respect of all religions and beliefs,” before adding, in English: “Never Again”.
Mr Ashkenazi and his Emirati counterpart were in Berlin to discuss a variety of issues in connection with the promotion of relations between the two countries, according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The UAE dignitary’s visit to the memorial was particularly poignant given the high levels of ignorance about the Holocaust and Holocaust denial in the Middle East.
In his own inscription, Mr Ashkenazi – a former commander of Israel’s armed forces – said that his presence alongside the Emirati and German Foreign Ministers “symbolises a new era…of peace between the peoples.” It was also a reminder of the need “to ensure that this will never recur,” added Mr Ashkenazi in Hebrew.
In statements to the press issued following the meeting between the three, Sheikh al-Nahyan and Mr Ashkenazi both referred to the other as “my friend”” and pledged to continue to work together.