Israel confirms participation in 2020 Expo world fair in Dubai

Top Foreign Ministry official visits UAE to sign deal to take part; FM Katz says shift ‘reflects the rise in Israel’s status’ in Arab world

In this photo from October 8, 2019, technicians walk at the three thematic districts at the under construction site of the Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
In this photo from October 8, 2019, technicians walk at the three thematic districts at the under construction site of the Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Israel will take part in the prestigious Expo 2020 world fair in Dubai, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday, after a visit by a top ministry official to the United Arab Emirates.

Yuval Rotem, director-general of the Foreign Ministry, visited Dubai this week to sign an agreement on Israel’s participation. He also met with officials there during his trip, according to Hebrew media reports.

“Israel’s participation in the exhibition reflects the rise in Israel’s status, not only internationally but also among the key state actors in our region.” Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said in a statement on Tuesday.

“[The] participation gives Israel an extraordinary opportunity to showcase its capabilities and achievements in the field of technology alongside vibrant Israeli culture,” he added.

Expo 2020, which runs from October 20, 2020, to April 20, 2021, is set to attract some 25 million visitors to the glitzy emirate, famed for its luxury resorts and opulent shopping malls.

Yuval Rotem, director-general of the Foreign Ministry, October 13, 2016. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Israel has no diplomatic ties with the UAE, though relations between the countries have quietly warmed over shared concerns about Iranian aggression in the region. Senior Israeli ministers have openly visited the country and in 2018, Israel’s national anthem was played at a judo tournament in Abu Dhabi when its team member won a gold medal.

A report last month in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily said the UAE intends to allow Israeli tourists to freely visit the country, beginning with Expo 2020.

Israelis can currently visit the UAE if they have a foreign passport or with Israeli travel papers after getting a special entry permit.

In April, the Foreign Ministry announced that Israel will take part in the 2020 World Expo, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailing “another expression of Israel’s rising status in the world and the region.”

The expo, the latest in the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions’ (BIE) “universal expositions,” will see over 190 countries showcase their cultures, innovations and visions for the future.

In this photo released on July 1, 2019, Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz visits the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Courtesy Katz’s office)

Over the past months, Israel’s backdoor relations with former Arab foes have increasingly entered public view. Israel and the Sunni Arab states have in recent years cooperated clandestinely in light of their common enmity to Iran.

According to a survey published in October by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, 42 percent of the public in the Emirates is interested in establishing relations with Israel.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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