Israeli PM arrives in Abu Dhabi on historic visit to UAE

Naftali Bennett will meet Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi on Monday



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By Agencies

Published: Mon 13 Dec 2021, 12:15 AM

Last updated: Mon 13 Dec 2021, 6:25 AM

Israel’s Naftali Bennett arrived in the UAE on Sunday for the first official visit by a prime minister of the country, after they established diplomatic ties last year.

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.

In attendance as well during the Israeli premier's arrival were Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja, UAE Ambassador to Israel, and Amir Hayek, Israel's ambassador to the UAE.

The trip announced by Bennett’s office comes with Israel making a renewed diplomatic push against international talks which global powers resumed with its arch foe Iran over the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.

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Bennett on Monday meets His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to discuss “deepening the ties between Israel and the UAE, especially economic and regional issues,” the prime minister’s office said.

Just before 4.30pm (1430 GMT), Bennett’s office announced his plane had taken off from Ben Gurion Airport in central Israel on what the premier called a “historic” visit and “first of its kind.”

A spokesman for Bennett, Matan Sidi, later confirmed: “The entourage of the prime minister has landed now in Abu Dhabi, the UAE, for PM Bennett’s first visit to the country.”

Before boarding the plane, the prime minister said his trip “is aimed at deepening the cooperation between the countries, in all fields”.

“The relations are excellent and extensive, and we must continue to nurture and strengthen them, and build the warm peace between the people,” he said in a video issued by his office.

The UAE last year became the third Arab nation to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel after Egypt and Jordan.

Bahrain and Morocco then followed as part of a series of deals brokered by then US president Donald Trump. Sudan also agreed to normalise ties with Israel under the so-called Abraham Accords, but full relations have not yet materialised.

The agreements were negotiated by Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who said they would offer Israel new regional allies against Iran and bolster its diplomatic efforts to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The trip was the first of its kind since relations between the two countries were downgraded in 2016.

Bennett’s Abu Dhabi visit comes on the heels of a trip to Washington by Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who has repeatedly stressed that military options must be ready if negotiations with Iran collapse.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was also in London and Paris last month, where he called for tighter sanctions against Tehran.

Since the Abraham Accords were signed, Israel and the UAE have inked a series of deals on economic and trade cooperation.

In November, Israeli weapons maker Elbit Systems launched a new venture in the UAE, after Emirati and Israeli air force commanders visited each other’s nations.

While Bennett is the first Israel prime minister to visit UAE, Lapid made a landmark visit there in June, opening an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai, while the UAE established an embassy in Tel Aviv.


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