Israel says top diplomat to visit UAE in first official trip

Published June 21, 2021
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will inaugurate the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General of Israel in Dubai. — AFP
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will inaugurate the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General of Israel in Dubai. — AFP

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will visit the United Arab Emirates, in the first official ministerial visit since the two nations agreed to normalise ties, his office said on Monday.

Israel and the UAE, along with Bahrain, normalised ties in September, and the Jewish state also last year agreed to normalise relations with two other Arab nations, Morocco and Sudan.

“Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will hold the first and historic official visit of an Israeli foreign minister to the UAE,” a statement read.

He will be hosted by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan on his two-day visit from June 29-30, it added.

Lapid is the architect of a coalition government in Israel that came to power on June 13, ousting long serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who presided over last year's normalisation accords.

Israeli ministers have previously visited the UAE, but Lapid is the most senior Israeli to make the trip, and the first to travel on an official journey.

“Ties between Israel and the UAE are an important relationship, the fruits of which will be enjoyed not only by the citizens of the two countries, but by the entire Middle East,” the statement added.

Lapid will inaugurate the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi, as well as the Consulate General of Israel in Dubai.

In October 2018, Miri Regev, then Israel's minister of culture and sports, travelled with the national judo team to Abu Dhabi, but it was not an official visit.

Another Israeli minister, Ayoub Kara, then minister of communications, spoke in October 2018 at an international conference on telecommunications in Dubai.

In March, a planned official prime ministerial visit to the UAE by Netanyahu was cancelled due to a “dispute” with Jordan over the use of its airspace, according to Israeli officials.

Netanyahu — replaced as prime minister by Jewish nationalist Naftali Bennett in Israel's new government — had already postponed in February a visit to the UAE and Bahrain, amid travel restrictions imposed to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

Israel's normalisation accords with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — known as the Abraham Accords — were last year brokered by then US president Donald Trump's administration.

Israel has already signed a raft of deals with both UAE and Bahrain, ranging from tourism to aviation and financial services.

On Monday, the Israel-based i24News television network said it would open an office in Dubai, a first for an Israel-based media outlet.

The normalisation accords have been condemned by the Palestinians as they break with years of Arab League policy which has held that there should be no relations with Israel until it makes peace with the Palestinians.

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