DUBAI: Israel’s Mossad spy agency chief Yossi Cohen visited the United Arab Emirates for security talks, Emirati state media reported on Tuesday, only days after Israel and UAE agreed to establish diplomatic ties.

The head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service discussed “cooperation in the fields of security” with the UAE’s national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi, reported the official WAM news agency.

Cohen’s visit marked the first visit to the UAE by an Israeli official after the announcement last week by US President Donald Trump that the two countries had agreed to normalise relations.

“The two sides discussed prospects for cooperation in the fields of security as well as exchanged points of view on regional developments and on issues of common interest” including efforts to contain Covid-19, the report said.

Yossi Cohen’s visit is the first one to the Gulf state by an Israeli official

As part of the landmark deal, the Jewish state agreed to suspend the annexation of occupied West Bank territories, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the plan was not off the table in the long run.

Trump said leaders from the two countries would sign the historic agreement at the White House in the coming weeks.

Netanyahu last week called Cohen to thank him for the Mossad’s assistance “in developing the ties with the Gulf states over the years, which assisted in bringing the peace treaty to fruition,” the prime minister’s office said.

Palestinians protested the deal which they saw as a betrayal by a major player in the Arab world, which has broadly held that normal ties with Israel are only possible once its dispute with the Palestinians is resolved.

Israel-UAE tensions had run high in 2010 after Mossad was widely blamed for the assassination in a Dubai hotel room of an operative for Hamas, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

The Israel-UAE deal is only the third such accord Israel has struck with an Arab country, and raises the prospect of similar deals with other pro-Western Gulf states.

The Israeli prime minister appeared on Monday on Sky News Arabia in his first interview with the Abu Dhabi-based network.

“This is a great moment ... we are making history,” he said, adding: “This is a combination of limitless possibilities.” UAE ally Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, has maintained a conspicuous silence over the deal, but local officials have hinted that Riyadh is unlikely to immediately follow the UAE, its principle regional ally, despite US pressure.

Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner insisted on Monday that it would be in Riyadh’s interest to formally establish ties with Israel.

“It would be very good for Saudi business, it would be very good for Saudi Arabia’s defence, and, quite frankly, I think it would also help the Palestinian people,” Kushner said.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2020

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