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UAE ruler hopes meeting will yield 'further cooperation'

Bennett, on landmark UAE visit, meets crown prince to discuss booming ties, Iran

In 1st official visit by an Israeli leader, PM also meets government ministers, tells state news: ‘Mutual partnership and friendship are natural. We are neighbors and cousins’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the latter's Abu Dhabi palace on December 13, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the latter's Abu Dhabi palace on December 13, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Monday with Emirati Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the latter’s palace in Abu Dhabi, as part of the first official visit by an Israel premier to the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting with the UAE’s de facto ruler was set to focus on the shared threat posed by Iran, as well as advancing economic cooperation between the countries, Bennett’s office previously stated.

Shortly after the meeting, the official Emirati news agency WAM reported bin Zayed as expressing hope the meeting would “contribute to further cooperation for the benefit of the peoples of the two countries and the peoples of the region.”

WAM said both leaders “reviewed bilateral cooperation and means to further develop them” in various fields.

The report said the crown prince “highlighted that the UAE’s foreign relations are based on firm principles of mutual respect, cooperation and upholding the values of coexistence and peace… expressing his hope that stability will prevail in the Middle East.”

“Concluding the meeting, the two sides highlighted the keenness to boost bilateral cooperation and joint action in an endeavor to enhance mutual interests and contribute to the consolidation of stability, security and development in the region,” WAM reported.

Bennett also met Monday — on the second and last day of his visit — with the UAE’s Industry and Advanced Technology Minister Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber and Culture Minister Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi.

In an interview with WAM, Bennett said that last year’s Abraham Accords normalizing Israel’s ties with the UAE and several other Arab states established a “new, deep and solid structure for diplomatic, economic and cultural relations” in the Middle East.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) sits down with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the latter’s Abu Dhabi palace on December 13, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

“The relations between the two countries have strengthened in all fields, and I am very satisfied with that, as many cooperation agreements were concluded in the fields of trade, research and development, and cybersecurity, health, education, aviation and more, and I look forward to the continued development and consolidation of relations,” Bennett said.

“Our cooperation provides unprecedented economic opportunities not only for us, but for more countries, which is another element for enhancing stability and prosperity in this region,” he said.

“The message that I wish to deliver to the UAE leaders and Emirati citizens is that mutual partnership and friendship are natural. We are neighbors and cousins. We are the grandchildren of Prophet Abraham,” Bennett added, concluding that the warming of ties over the past year “is the best evidence that developing bilateral relations is a precious treasure for us and the entire region.”

On Sunday, Bennett was greeted at the airport by Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan — the crown prince’s brother — and an honor guard after landing.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed walk past an honor guard in Abu Dhabi on December 12, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

“I appreciate your warm hospitality. This is a wonderful reception. I am very excited to be here, on the first official visit by an Israeli leader here,” Bennett told bin Zayed, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. “We expect to strengthen the relationship between the countries.”

Bennett’s flight took off several hours after his office announced the visit to the UAE. He flew with a scaled-down delegation that did not include journalists because of concerns about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Before departing, the prime minister said the aim of his trip was to further expand ties between Israel and the UAE.

“The ties are excellent and diverse, and we must continue to nurture and strengthen them, and build a warm peace between the two nations,” he said in a video statement from the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport.

His visit comes as Israel and its Gulf allies fret about Iran’s nuclear program. Talks between Iran and world powers stalled again last week.

Israel and the UAE forged ties in the United States-brokered Abraham Accords last year, bringing over a decade of covert contacts into the open, and have seen their relationship flourish since then.

L-R: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan participate in the signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House on September 15, 2020. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco later also joined the Accords, and other countries were also rumored to be in talks, though none has come to fruition so far.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was instrumental in the signing of the Abraham Accords, repeatedly tried to schedule a visit to the UAE, but was forced to cancel on a number of occasions and never made the trip as premier.

In June, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid officially inaugurated Israel’s embassy in the UAE.

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