In New York, Israeli FM talks ‘civilian cooperation’ with an Arab counterpart
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In New York, Israeli FM talks ‘civilian cooperation’ with an Arab counterpart

At sidelines of UN General Assembly, Israel Katz has ‘fascinating’ meeting with top diplomat from unnamed country Jerusalem has no diplomatic relations with

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, during a UN climate conference in the city, in late June, 2019. (Courtesy Katz's office)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, during a UN climate conference in the city, in late June, 2019. (Courtesy Katz's office)

Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Monday met with a counterpart from an unspecified Arab country that Israel does not have diplomatic relations with.

The meeting took place at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, which is taking place in New York this week.

“On the sidelines of the General Assembly, a first and fascinating meeting yesterday with one of the Arab foreign ministers,” Katz tweeted on Tuesday morning.

“We discussed in depth the regional realities and ways to deal with the Iranian threat, while at the same time we agreed on a process for promoting civilian cooperation between our two countries. A new and challenging reality.”

Katz, who is also intelligence minister, has met with senior Arab officials at least twice: In early July, he met an unnamed senior Emirati official during a visit to the Gulf city of Abu Dhabi. Later that month, he shared a photograph with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa during an event hosted by the US State Department in Washington.

It marked the rare instance in which a top Arab official is publicly documented meeting a senior Israeli figure.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019. (Courtesy)

Katz is set to address the General Assembly on Thursday. He is scheduled to meet several foreign ministers before that day.

Katz flew to New York Monday instead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who last week decided to skip the UN after failing to secure sufficient support in the September 17 Knesset elections to form a new government with his right-wing political allies.

Netanyahu’s office said he would forgo the trip due to the current “political circumstances,” without elaborating. It will be the first time Netanyahu has skipped the General Assembly since 2010, when then-foreign minister and current political nemesis Avgidor Liberman addressed world leaders at the forum.

The General Assembly opens this year on September 24, a day before the Central Elections Committee is to present the final results from Tuesday’s election to President Reuven Rivlin. The president has until October 2 to task a lawmaker with assembling a government.

Netanyahu’s speeches at the United Nations have focused largely on Iran and have included the use of props, most notably his drawing of a red line on a cartoon bomb symbolizing Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sets out his ‘red line’ for Iran on a cartoon-bomb drawing during a speech to the UN General Assembly, on September 27, 2012. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

His absence from the UN means he will not meet with US President Donald Trump, who said over the weekend he looked forward to meeting with Netanyahu after the elections to discuss a Mutual Defense Pact between the United States and Israel.

Netanyahu touted his close ties to Trump in his election campaign and the US president’s comment on meeting him at the UN was widely seen in Israel as indicating the American leader hoped Netanyahu would win the elections.

Netanyahu likewise said he looked forward to meeting Trump and hailed the US president, saying Israel “has never had a greater friend in the White House.”

Alexander Fulbright contributed to this report.

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