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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Israeli PM lands in UAE to finalize free trade deal

The UAE was the first Gulf country to normalise ties with Israel and only the third Arab nation to do so after Egypt and Jordan.

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett landed in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday for talks with President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, following a free trade deal signed last month.

Bennett’s second visit to UAE since the countries normalised relations in a US-brokered 2020 deal also comes after the UN atomic energy agency censured Iran for non-cooperation.

There was no prior announcement of the trip, which Bennett’s office described as a “snap visit” that would touch on “various regional issues.”

Speaking before leaving Israel, Bennett hailed the International Atomic Energy Agency for its motion condemning of Iran, approved by 30 members of the IAEA board of governors, with only Russia and China voting against.

Read more: Israel, UAE ready to sign free trade agreement on Tuesday

“We see here a firm stance by the countries of the world regarding the distinction between good and evil, as they clearly state that Iran is concealing things,” Bennett said, according to a statement from his office.

Concern about Iran, including its alleged nuclear programme, was widely viewed as factor that led UAE to forge ties with Israel.

The free trade agreement signed by the two countries last month — Israel’s first with an Arab state — abolished customs duties on more than 95 percent of products exchanged between the two sides.

Two-way trade last year totalled some $900 million dollars, according to Israeli figures.

The UAE was the first Gulf country to normalise ties with Israel and only the third Arab nation to do so after Egypt and Jordan.

Talks for a free trade agreement began in November and concluded after four rounds of negotiations.

Thursday will mark Bennett’s first meeting with Sheikh Mohamed since he assumed the presidency following the death of half brother Sheikh Khalifa last month.

Read more: Israeli president accepts Abu Dhabi crown prince invitation to visit UAE

Bennett and Sheikh Mohammed met twice last year, in Abu Dhabi and in Egypt.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk