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Health ministers of Israel, UAE talk cooperation on coronavirus research

Yuli Edelstein and Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais agree to appoint representatives to lead ties on medical matters, set up delegations on joint business ventures

An Emirati wearing a face mask, due to the coronavirus pandemic, walks past a camel statue decorated with a face mask, at the Rove City Centre Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 6, 2020. (AP/Jon Gambrell)
An Emirati wearing a face mask, due to the coronavirus pandemic, walks past a camel statue decorated with a face mask, at the Rove City Centre Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 6, 2020. (AP/Jon Gambrell)

The health ministers of Israel and the United Arab Emirates spoke Monday and agreed on cooperation on health issues, with a focus on the coronavirus pandemic,

Israel’s Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and his Emirati counterpart, Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais, agreed to appoint representatives to lead ties on medical matters, a joint statement from both countries said.

“In addition, the countries will set up delegations of business people from both countries in order to begin joint business ventures,” it said.

It also announced plans for a student exchange program, once the pandemic subsides enough to allow regular travel.

According to Emirati official news agency WAM, the two ministers spoke of joint work in the pharmaceutical industry and medical research, “particularly in the field of vaccine trials and treatments for the virus.”

Al Owais said bilateral cooperation on COVID-19 could benefit both countries and humanity as a whole, according to WAM.

Health collaboration between the two nations was first announced in June, prior to the historic decision to normalize ties. At the time, the two countries announced a team-up between private companies on research and development in the fight against the coronavirus.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein in the city of Bnei Brak on June 16, 2020. (Flash90)

Several companies have since signed deals to develop technologies to combat the pandemic.

Edelstein said the recent agreement to normalize relations between the two countries “gives an excellent opportunity to the citizens of Israel and the UAE for close relations that will be fruitful for both sides. The Emirati health minister is a true partner of Israel.”

The two states are believed to have been quietly cooperating on their response to the coronavirus for months.

This included the delivery to Israel of 100,000 test kits in March, as Israel faced shortages in the initial stages of the pandemic; and flights carrying aid for Palestinians, though Ramallah rejected the equipment delivered to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, as this was seen as a step toward the normalization of ties between Israel and the Gulf state.

A subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, March 16, 2020. (AP/Ted S. Warren, File)

The establishment of ties with Israel comes after years of quiet rapprochement, including the UAE’s hosting of athletes and ministers from the Jewish state.

According to an official statement by Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Washington, when the agreement was announced on August 13, delegations from Israel and the UAE are expected to meet in the coming weeks “to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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