Mossad chief meets with UAE security head in Abu Dhabi

In meeting formally confirmed by Emiratis, top security officials discuss coronavirus, other areas of possible cooperation, days after countries agreed to forge diplomatic ties

Then-Mossad chief Yossi Cohen speaks at a Tel Aviv University cyber conference, on June 24, 2019. (Flash90/File)
Then-Mossad chief Yossi Cohen speaks at a Tel Aviv University cyber conference, on June 24, 2019. (Flash90/File)

Mossad intelligence agency director Yossi Cohen met Tuesday with United Arab Emirates National Security Adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, an official Emirati news agency said, as the countries moved to normalize ties.

Cohen, who arrived Monday, was a key player in the historic agreement between Israel and the UAE, and became the first senior Israeli official to travel to Abu Dhabi since the deal was announced Thursday.

Cohen discussed “cooperation in the fields of security” and regional developments with Bin Zayed reported the official WAM news agency.

According to the statement, the two sides also discussed collaboration to fight the novel coronavirus, as well as “opening new horizons of cooperation between the two countries in various fields.”

Bin Zayed also praised Cohen’s role in fostering the burgeoning ties, “which contributed to the success of the peace treaty between the UAE and Israel,” the statement on WAM said.

There was no statement from Israel on Cohen’s talks.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday that they are establishing full diplomatic relations under a breakthrough deal in a US-brokered accord. In exchange, Israel agreed to suspend its plans to unilaterally move ahead with annexation of large parts of the West Bank, on the basis of the US peace plan.

The agreement makes the UAE the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full, active diplomatic ties with Israel. Thursday’s joint statement said deals between Israel and the UAE were expected in the coming weeks in such areas as tourism, security and trade.

Tel Aviv City Hall is lit up with the flag of the United Arab Emirates as the UAE and Israel announce an agreement establishing full diplomatic ties, Aug. 13, 2020, (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

Cohen’s visit came amid wrangling between the Mossad, the National Security Adviser and the Foreign Ministry over who will take the lead in seeing the agreement to fruition.

A larger Israeli delegation is expected in Abu Dhabi later this week.

According to Walla news, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi’s Blue and White party wants the Foreign Ministry to lead the delegation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat would lead the preparations for the talks “in coordination with all the relevant parties.”

The cabinet is expected to be briefed on the agreement on Tuesday, Walla reported.

Netanyahu admitted on Thursday that he kept his senior coalition partners in the Blue and White party — including Ashkenazi, and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz — out of the loop regarding the brewing normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and said he did so at the request of the US. He has indicated that he feared Gantz and Ashkenazi would leak out information about the deal, possibly leading to it being torpedoed.

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