Israeli foreign minister to pay first visit to UAE next week -statement

Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem
Israeli alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives to attend the first weekly cabinet meeting of the new government in Jerusalem June 20, 2021. Emmanuel Dunand/Pool via REUTERS

June 21, 2021

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel’s top diplomat will travel to the United Arab Emirates next week in the first official visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf state since the two countries established diplomatic relations last year.

Yair Lapid, who was sworn in last week under a new government, will be hosted by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan from June 29-30, the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Minister Lapid will inaugurate the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General of Israel in Dubai.”

The UAE, along with Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, began normalising relations with Israel last year under accords brokered by then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

The deals angered the Palestinians, who have long relied on Gulf and Arab support in their quest for statehood in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Lapid’s visit will be his first abroad as foreign minister. He and new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett forged a patchwork coalition that ended the record-long tenure of veteran prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spearheaded Israel’s deals with the four Arab countries.

Netanyahu had planned to visit the UAE ahead of a March 23 election but cancelled the trip amid a dispute with Jordan.

In a side deal to opening relations with Israel, the UAE secured Washington’s approval to purchase U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets. President Joe Biden has since proceeded with that deal following a review.

Business relations between Israel and the UAE have flourished, and the two countries signed a major tax treaty on May 31.

“Relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates are important, the fruits of which benefit not only the citizens of the two countries, but the entire Middle East,” the foreign ministry said in its statement.

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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