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TeraGroup is developing a one-minute COVID-19 breathalyzer

Israeli and Emirati companies ink deal to jointly research COVID-19 technology

2 days after normalization pact announced, firms say they’ll work on developing a testing device to more quickly and accurately diagnose the virus

Illustrative: Medical workers test local residents at a temporary site to collect samples for coronavirus, in south Tel Aviv on July 16, 2020.(Flash90)
Illustrative: Medical workers test local residents at a temporary site to collect samples for coronavirus, in south Tel Aviv on July 16, 2020.(Flash90)

An Emirati company and an Israeli firm on Saturday signed a strategic commercial agreement to jointly research and develop technology in the fight against the coronavirus, in what appeared to be the first commercial deal between the two countries since a historic normalization agreement was announced on Thursday.

APEX National Investment, of the UAE, and Israel’s TeraGroup signed the deal at a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, according to the Emirati news agency WAM on Saturday.

The two companies will work on developing a COVID-19 testing device to more quickly and accurately diagnose the disease.

“We are delighted with this cooperation with TeraGroup, which is considered the first business to inaugurate trade, economy and effective partnerships between the Emirati and Israeli business sectors, for the benefit of serving humanity by strengthening research and studies on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19),” said APEX chairman Khalifa Yousef Khouri.

TeraGroup is developing a COVID-19 testing device that aims to detect the disease in a patient’s breath and deliver results in one minute. It wasn’t immediately clear if this project was part of the joint agreement with APEX.

An IDF soldier tests a coronavirus sample in a military lab in an undated photograph, released on August 4, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel and the UAE signed a historic normalization agreement on Thursday, which included developing commercial ties between the two countries. The two states have been quietly cooperating on their response to the coronavirus for months, which played a part in moving the normalization agreement forward, according to Friday reports.

On Saturday, the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, told Israeli media that the UAE over time realized the lack of ties with Israel was detrimental.

“This is a relationship that has developed slowly,” Gargash told the Walla news site, in what was billed as the first open interview by an Emirati official with Israeli media. “We have come to a realization that no communication is not really a healthy choice.

“I think on the other hand also we’ve seen that many countries that have issues with Israel have also contacts with Israel and have cooperation with Israel,” Gargash added.

“I think for us to move from point A to point B has been a learning experience,” he said, adding that the UAE still has “an issue with regards to the political aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Gargash said he hopes for “reciprocity,” embassies, and cooperation in the fields of agriculture, security, technology and tourism.

The deal, announced by US President Donald Trump on Thursday, is only the third such accord Israel has struck with an Arab country, and raises the prospect of similar deals with other pro-Western Gulf states.

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

Apart from the diplomatic implications, there are obvious economic benefits.

The UAE, rich in oil and with big ambitions in space and technology, will be able to do business openly with Israel, which will have access to the modern cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi as they attract talent and investment.

According to the official statement on the agreement, “Delegations from Israel and the United Arab Emirates will 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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