Prime Minister Naftali Bennett concluded his historic visit to the UAE yesterday after a long meeting with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. In the course of the meeting, Bennet invited the Abu Dhabi ruler to visit Israel, and received a positive response. The visit will be the first by the leader of an Arab country in Israel for many years.
Bennett instructed his staff and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to start coordinating preparations for the visit. Incidentally, on his departure for the UAE, Bennett said that it was the first open visit by an Israeli prime minister, apparently hinting at the reported covert visit by previous prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UAE before the signing of the Abraham Accords.
A joint declaration by Bennett and bin Zayed after their meeting stated that there was a mutual desire to deepen and strengthen cooperation, chiefly in the economic sphere, between the two countries. In that framework, a free trade agreement is under discussion. The prime minister instructed Prime Minister's Office director general Yair Pines to expedite work on the agreement together with the Ministry of Economy and Industry, to enable it to be signed in the first quarter of 2022.
The joint declaration said that the two sides would work to set up a joint fund and a joint business council to promote common aims in various areas, among them clean energy, climate change solutions, technological cooperation, and trade, both bilateral and jointly with other countries. It was also agreed that there should be a broad agreement on combatting the coronavirus pandemic and development of tourism.
Sources in the prime minister's circle said that the visit was mainly about building personal ties and familiarity between the two leaders, who spoke candidly and stressed their desire to strengthen peace between the two countries and to build economic relations.
Besides the meeting with the crown prince, Bennett met Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology in the United Arab Emirates Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, with whom he discussed cooperation on technology, energy and trade, with an emphasis on renewable energy. The prime minister also met UAE Minister of Culture and Youth Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, with whom he discussed cooperation in the areas of culture and sport, including cinema and creating joint television programs.
Summing up his visit, Bennett said, "I have just now concluded a very significant visit to the Emirates. I wish to thank Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed for the especially warm welcome and for deep, sincere, and meaningful talks. In the course of the day we spoke about the relative strengths of the two countries, and our aim is to broaden the link, so that it will not just be a peace between leaders but peace between peoples. I leave with a great sense of optimism that this example, of the connection between the two countries, will represent a foundation stone for widespread ties with the whole region."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 14, 2021.
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