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Israeli premier to pay first visit to UAE since formalising ties

Israeli Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, Israel, December 5, 2021. Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via REUTERS

December 12, 2021

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will travel to the United Arab Emirates on Sunday and meet the Gulf state’s de facto ruler in the highest-level visit since the countries formalised relations last year.

The trip comes amid heightened regional tension as world powers’ try to renew a nuclear deal with Iran. Israel and some Gulf Arabs share concern over Iranian activities in the region.

“I will be going out today to the United Arab Emirates, in the first visit ever by an Israeli prime minister,” Bennett told a meeting of his cabinet on Sunday.

There was no immediate confirmation from Abu Dhabi.

The UAE along with Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco moved toward normal ties with Israel under a U.S.-sponsored initiative dubbed the “Abraham Accords” in reference to the biblical patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Bennett’s trip on Sunday would be the first by an Israeli premier to any of those four countries. Trips planned by his predecessor and Abraham Accords signatory Benjamin Netanyahu were cancelled, with Israel citing COVID-19 travel curbs and difficulties in arranging a flight over Jordanian territory.

Bennett will meet Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Monday, the Israeli prime minister’s office said.

The two leaders will discuss deepening ties, with an emphasis on economic issues that will contribute to prosperity, welfare and strengthening stability between the countries, the Israeli statement added.

(Reporting by Dan Williams, Rami AyyubEditing by Ari Rabinovitch and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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