Israel PM on historic visit to UAE

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was greeted by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed. The trip also marks the first official visit of an Israeli PM to the Gulf country…reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made his first official visit to the United Arab Emirates, in a bid to strengthen the recently-established bilateral ties.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, welcomed the Israeli Prime Minister upon his arrival at the Presidential Terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

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Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja, UAE Ambassador to Israel, and Amir Hayek, Israel’s ambassador to the UAE were present during Bennett’s arrival.

Bennett thanked Zayed for his warm welcome and said that he looks forward to strengthening bilateral ties on the first-ever trip, reported The Times of Israel.

Bennett said bin Zayed, “I appreciate your warm hospitality. This is a wonderful welcome. I am very excited to be here on the first official visit by an Israeli leader here. I look forward to strengthening the relationship between our two countries.”

“I am delighted to take off for a historic visit, the first of its kind, to the UAE,” Bennett said on Sunday in a video statement at the Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv ahead of his departure.

Bennett added that he will meet the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday, and will also meet “dozens of other ministers and senior officials.”

The visit, coming some 14 months after Israel and the UAE normalised ties, is “intended to deepen the cooperation between the countries in all areas,” the Israeli Prime Minister said.

He added that the ties are already “excellent and branching, and we must continue to nurture and strengthen them, and build the warm peace between the people of the two countries.”

The visit comes amid Israeli diplomatic bids to halt the nuclear talks between world powers and Iran, Xinhua news agency reported.

The trip also marks the first official visit of an Israeli Prime Minister to the Gulf country.

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Israel and the UAE signed the so-called Abraham Accord, a US-brokered normalisation agreement, in September 2020.

In late June, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid flew to the UAE, in the first visit by a senior Israeli official, to open the first Israeli embassy in the Gulf state. About a month later, the UAE inaugurated its embassy in Israel.

Israel-Dubai trade

Ilan Sztulman Starosta, the Israeli Consul-General in Dubai earlier said that the bilateral trade between Israel and Dubai has reached AED2.57 billion (US$700 million) since the Abraham Accords was signed in September 2020.

“We have this huge amount of trade [even though] Israel was closed completely for foreigners, and sometimes for Israelis, too, up to 1st November, because of COVID-19. It only proves that once the doors are opened, we are going to have a surge of more business going back and forth,” the Israeli Consul-General in Dubai told WAM.

Dubai Government announced on 30th January that the emirate’s trade with Israel in five months, between September 2020-January 2021, had reached AED1 billion (US$272.26 million).

In June 2021, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that bilateral trade between his country and the UAE had reached over NIS2.2 billion (AED2.48 billion/US$675.22 million), within ten months of signing the Abraham Accords.

The Israeli Consul-General said commodities constituted most of the two-way trade, with diamond having high volumes.

Meanwhile, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will open an office in the UAE in the coming weeks. The new office will strengthen IAI’s growing cooperation with the local and regional governments, industries, companies, and academia, and will provide additional business opportunities for future collaborations on technological developments in the defence and civilian sectors, said an IAI statement.

The office opens following the company’s historic participation at the Dubai Airshow, during which a number of cooperation agreements were signed, including with Emirates Airlines on cargo conversions and with the defence company EDGE on developing advanced unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and electro-optics. These agreements follow a successful year of cooperation between IAI and other Gulf-based companies, including Etihad Airways, Gulf Air, and G-42.