The UAE and Israeli foreign ministers held their first publicly-acknowledged call on Sunday after the UAE Israel agreement; the Gulf state opened telephone lines to Israel as part of a normalisation of ties.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday announced their US-sponsored rapprochement, which promised a boom in bilateral trade but angered Palestinians and anti-Israel countries such as Turkey and Iran.
UAE and Israel ministers in agreement, vow “to meet soon”
The two foreign ministers spoke by phone to inaugurate the newly-opened lines. Israel’s Gabi Ashkenazi said he and his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed agreed during the call “to meet soon”.
Israel’s Communications Ministry said the UAE telecoms providers on Saturday unblocked calls to numbers with Israel’s +972 country code.
Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan has deleted his 2014 tweet about #Israel being a child-killing regime following a recent deal between #AbuDhabi and Tel Aviv for the normalization of ties.@ABZayed #UAE pic.twitter.com/JJ3Jha9MCt
— Concept TV News (@ConceptTVNews) August 17, 2020
Reuters made several calls from the UAE to Israel on Sunday and Israeli news websites that previously were blocked in the UAE could also be seen using UAE internet connections.
“I congratulate the United Arab Emirates on the unblocking,” Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said on Twitter.
“Many economic opportunities will now open up, and these trust-building steps are important for advancing the countries’ interests.”
The UAE’s Telecoms Regulatory Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did the UAE’s two main telecoms operators Du and Etisalat.
The UAE-Israel agreement says Israeli and UAE delegations will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements covering sectors including investment, tourism and direct flights and the opening of reciprocal embassies.
UAE and Israel sign first business agreement
On Saturday, the first business deal was signed since the accord. Emirati APEX National Investment company and Israel’s Tera Group would cooperate on research and development related to Covid-19, including a testing device.
The UAE foreign ministry in a statement said the country expected an agreement on reciprocal visas, saying more details would be announced in due course.
Currently, Israelis wishing to visit the UAE, and Emiratis wanting to visit Israel, can get special visas assessed on a case-by-case basis by the inviting government, spokespeople for the UAE Foreign Ministry and Israel’s Interior Ministry said.
Numerous Israeli citizens and officials have visited the UAE for sporting events and international conferences. Israel’s culture and sports minister in October 2018 came to watch Israelis compete in an international judo tournament in Abu Dhabi.
Israel is a confirmed participant at the Expo 2020 Dubai world fair, which has been postponed to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Israel’s intelligence minister has said that Bahrain and Oman could be the next Gulf countries to formalise ties with Israel.
“In the wake of this (UAE-Israel) agreement will come additional agreements, both with more Gulf countries and with Muslim countries in Africa,” Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Army Radio.
“I think that Bahrain and Oman are definitely on the agenda. In addition, in my assessment, there is a chance that already in the coming year there will be a peace deal with additional countries in Africa, chief among them, Sudan,” he said. Both Bahrain and Oman praised the US-sponsored accord, but neither have commented on their own prospects for normalised relations or responded to requests for comment on the subject.
Emirate’s strategic interests will be served by normalization
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.
“We as a country are very globally connected and we do find that the connections are incredibly lucrative and contribute to our GDP,” Ghobash said, in an unusually candid assessment.
“We are driven by pragmatic considerations.”
The UAE, which has sent a probe to Mars and pressed the button on a nuclear power programme in the past month, is growing in prominence on the world stage.
Ghobash, a former ambassador to Russia and France, said the Israel deal demonstrated its diplomatic independence.
“We are not a gift to be awarded to the Israelis at some stage if they satisfy Palestinian demands,” he said.
“We are very clearly stating that it is in our sovereign interest to make this move and therefore that sovereign interest will be served,” he said.
“We have spent the last 20 years developing relationships with all kinds of countries across the globe. We have an active foreign policy and we will make our own sovereign decisions.”
GVS News Desk with additional input by other sources