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Lapid confirms plans for landmark visit to UAE next week

Trip will be first by Israeli minister to Gulf state, and Lapid’s first as foreign minister; he will officially inaugurate Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives at the president's residence in Jerusalem for a group photo of the new government, June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives at the president's residence in Jerusalem for a group photo of the new government, June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will fly to the United Arab Emirates next Sunday for a two-day official visit, his office confirmed Monday, a day after the plan was first reported.

The trip will mark the first time an Israeli minister has visited the Gulf state in an official capacity.

Lapid will be hosted by Emirati Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan.

Israel’s foreign minister will officially inaugurate the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai. This is Lapid’s first trip abroad in the role.

“Israel-UAE ties are an important relationship whose fruits are enjoyed not only by the citizens of the two countries, but by the entire Middle East,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Last week the UAE and Bahrain issued statements welcoming the new Israeli government.

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, stand on the Blue Room Balcony during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on September 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Following a call last week with bin Zayed, Lapid said he looked forward “to working with him to build on the warm and unique relations between our two countries for the benefit of our peoples and the entire Middle East.”

The new government, an unlikely alliance of right-wing, left-wing, centrist, and Islamist parties, was sworn in last Sunday, ending Netanyahu’s 12-year term in office.

Lapid in his first speech as foreign minister highlighted his diplomatic priorities, including building on the Abraham Accords, which also saw Israel sign deals with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

“Part of our work will of course be to strengthen our presence in the region. Great things have happened this past year. We need to continue the development that started with the Abraham Accords. To work to strengthen the peace with the Gulf States, with Egypt and with Jordan,” Lapid said last Monday.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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