Dubai (AFP) — A United Arab Emirates delegation left on the country’s first official visit to Israel on Tuesday, with a string of deals set to be signed after the two countries signed a deal to normalise ties last month.
With their economies hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE and Israel are hoping for rapid dividends from their normalisation deal — which broke years of Arab consensus that there should be no relations with the Jewish state until it makes peace with the Palestinians.
According to an Israeli government statement, the two sides are expected to sign agreements on aviation, investment protection, visa exemptions, and science and technology.
The two governments are also due to sign an agreement authorising 28 commercial flights a week between the countries, an Israeli transport ministry official said.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who attended a business dinner with Emirati and Israeli officials in Abu Dhabi on Monday, accompanied the delegation on the Etihad Airways flight.
“This morning, UAE prepares to send its first official delegation to Israel,” tweeted Hend Al Otaiba, director of strategic communications at the foreign ministry.
She added that the UAE delegation was headed by the minister of state for financial affairs, Obaid Al Tayer, and Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq Al Mari.
The UAE and Israel signed a US-brokered deal to normalise ties at the White House on September 15, marking the first such deal with a Gulf state.
Bahrain followed suit in a ceremony on Sunday after a similar US-brokered agreement, joining the pact known as the Abraham Accords.
– ‘Promising opportunities’ –
“The Abraham Accords signed by the UAE and Israel built and improved upon the agreement by transforming the regional security environment as well as driving economic prosperity for all the nations involved,” Mnuchin said at Monday’s dinner.
He had earlier held talks with senior Emirati officials on the “promising opportunities for cooperation awaiting the two countries”, the official WAM news agency reported.
The Israeli parliament ratified the UAE deal last week.
The Emirati and Bahraini governments ratified their agreements with Israel on Monday, state media reported.
The UAE and Bahrain are only the third and fourth Arab states to normalise ties with Israel, following Israel’s 1979 peace deal with Egypt and a 1994 agreement with Jordan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will greet the UAE delegation at Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv.
He will then host a meeting with Mnuchin, President Donald Trump’s special assistant for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz and Emirati officials, it added.