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Tourism minister says airport security dispute with Dubai far from resolution

With Feb. 28 deadline looming, Yoel Razvozov says ‘we’ve been getting further away from reaching an agreement’; Shin Bet reportedly tells airlines to prepare for flights to halt

Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov (right) and Emirati Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises Ahmad Belhoul al-Falasi attend a ceremony at the Israeli pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on October 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov (right) and Emirati Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises Ahmad Belhoul al-Falasi attend a ceremony at the Israeli pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on October 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said on Tuesday he was “really concerned” about an ongoing dispute between Israel and the United Arab Emirates over security arrangements at Dubai International Airport.

The dispute concerns the refusal of Emirati authorities to allow the presence of Israeli security personnel from the Shin Bet Security Service on Dubai soil, potentially restricting burgeoning bilateral tourism touted as one of the most lucrative fruits of the 2020 normalization accord between them

Speaking to public broadcaster Kan, Razvozov said the deadline for reaching a solution agreed on by all parties was February 28.

“So far,” he noted, “we’ve been getting further away from reaching an agreement.”

Some Israeli officials have attempted to downplay the significance of the dispute, but Razvozov expressed a growing concern over its future implications if not resolved by the end of the month.

“Up until a week and a half ago, I was still optimistic,” he said. “Now, I’m not as optimistic anymore.”

The dispute has led Israeli airlines to reduce the number of flights to Dubai, after warning the government earlier this month of “major disruptions” to their flying routes.

Airliners at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on December 11, 2019. (Jon Gambrell/AP)

Flights to the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, a far less popular destination than Dubai, are unaffected.

Addressing the dispute in an interview with Hebrew-language news site Ynet on Monday, Razvozov said “there were disagreements,” but said he was confident that the dispute would not “hinder the great relations” between the countries.

He said that negotiations with Emirati authorities were currently being led by Nadav Argaman, head of the Shin Bet, and Eyal Hulata, head of the National Security Council.

Dubai Airports Chief Executive Paul Griffiths told Reuters he hoped that the dispute would not disrupt services.

“It’s a discussion about the approach and it’s something I’m sure they’ll resolve very quickly,” he told Reuters.

Dubai authorities have so far not commented on the dispute.

Shin Bet agents, usually in plainclothes, are used as an extra layer of security for flights to and from Israel, and are posted at airports around the world.

“Over the past few months, security disputes have emerged between the competent bodies in Dubai and the Israeli aviation security system, in a way that does not allow for the responsible enactment of security for Israeli aviation,” a statement issued by the Shin Bet read.

The Shin Bet has reportedly told Israeli airlines to prepare to halt all flights to Dubai by March 8 if a solution is not reached.

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