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Herzog, in first call with UAE leader, talks free trade and Mideast stability

‘Warm and friendly’ conversation between president and powerful crown prince covers bilateral and regional issues

Luke Tress is an editor and a reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Composite image shows Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, left, and President Isaac Herzog, right. (Markus Schreiber/AP, Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Composite image shows Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, left, and President Isaac Herzog, right. (Markus Schreiber/AP, Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

President Isaac Herzog spoke with the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates for the first time over the weekend, his office said Saturday.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, spoke with Herzog on Friday about “several bilateral and regional issues,” the president’s office said.

The two leaders discussed deepening collaboration between the countries to bolster regional stability and the need for a free trade agreement between the UAE and Israel.

The conversation “was conducted in a warm and friendly spirit,” the statement said.

Herzog congratulated the crown prince on the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the UAE, marked this week.

The crown prince said he was looking forward to an official visit by Herzog to the UAE.

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

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

Herzog and the crown prince spoke as Israel and its allies again fret about Iran’s nuclear program. Talks between Iran and world powers stalled again this week.

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country is party to the talks, met with bin Zayed during a tour of the Gulf on Friday. Macron was expected to speak to Gulf leaders about the Iran situation during the tour.

On Friday, France announced the signing of a military mega-contract with the UAE that will see the Gulf state by 80 French warplanes.

Herzog has been pushing Israeli allies to take a hard line against Iran, including during a state visit to the United Kingdom late last month.

Herzog is the former head of the Jewish Agency and a former center-left lawmaker and opposition leader. He took office as Israel’s president, a largely ceremonial position, in July.

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