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First official UAE delegation visits Israel 

What happened: Another significant milestone for regional peace was reached yesterday when a delegation of senior UAE official, led by the finance and economy ministers, landed in Israel to sign further agreements as part of normalising relations between the two countries.

  • The delegation included US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and US International Development Finance Corp. CEO Adam S. Boehler.
  • On arrival they were greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli government ministers. At the ceremony Netanyahu said: “Jews and Arabs are the descendants of one common ancestor: Avraham, Abraham, Ibrahim. It is in his name that we have designated this historic peace initiative. In his spirit, we wish to foster a Middle East of coexistence and cooperation, of mutual understanding and mutual respect.”
  • UAE Finance Minister Obaid Humaid Al Tayer said: “We have achieved serious progress between our governments since the signing of the historic peace agreement. The economic cooperation between our two countries will come to fruition after we sign the agreement. We expect to see you soon in the UAE.”
  • Also speaking at the ceremony Mnuchin said: “The Abraham Accord established direct economic ties between two of the Middle East’s most thriving and advanced economies. These ties create a tremendous foundation for economic growth, opportunity, innovation and prosperity,”
  • Due to coronavirus restrictions the delegation did not leave Ben Gurion airport, where they signed four bilateral agreements with Israel, for the duration of their five-hour stay.
  • The agreements signed focused on economic cooperation and joint ventures; an agreement to encourage commercial trade between the two countries and a plan to provide investors with tax breaks; and an agreement to form a committee that will act to advance joint research projects in the spheres of cyber, agrotech, water-tech, artificial intelligence and the civilian space industry.

Context: Netanyahu related to the specific agreements:

  • “The first is to provide for the protection of investments, to create an economic environment that will benefit all our people.”
  • “The second is an agreement of cooperation in science and technology to ensure that both our countries can embrace the hope and opportunities of the future. The ever-changing technology that benefits health, clean environment, safe environment.”
  • “Third, we are facilitating civil aviation. We are connecting Israel and the UAE through multiple direct flights, and Israelis will be able to go to many destinations beyond that, to the east, in Asia.” They agreed to have 28 weekly flights in both directions.
  • “Fourth, we are exempting our nationals from visas and this will offer a huge boost for business, tourism and people-to-people contacts.”
  • In addition, a commercial agreement was also signed yesterday. The Europe Asia Pipeline Company signed a MOU with the Med-Red corporation. The agreement will see oil shipped to Eilat in tankers that will be transported to Ashkelon via the pipeline, from where it will be delivered to ports in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The US Embassy in Israel also announced the establishment of a fund of “more than 3 billion dollars in private sector-led investment and development initiatives to promote regional economic cooperation and prosperity in the Middle East and beyond”. The Abraham Fund will be based in Jerusalem.

Looking forward: According to the Prime Minister’s Office “additional agreements – the goal of which will be to realise the great existing potential – are expected in the future, not only between the countries but in the region as a whole”.

  • Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi was presented with a letter from his Emirati counterpart that included a request to open an embassy in Tel Aviv as quickly as possible.
  • The visa exemption treaty, will soon be ratified by both countries, is Israel’s first visa agreement with an Arab country.

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