In a historic visit, Israel’s leader meets Abu Dhabi’s crown prince
Israel’s prime minister met with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi on Monday as part of the first official visit to the United Arab Emirates by an Israeli leader since the establishment of official relations between the two countries last year.
Naftali Bennett’s historic trip this week to the Gulf Arab federation comes against the backdrop of nuclear talks between world powers and regional archrival Iran over its nuclear program. Israel has watched with concern as Iran has pushed a hard line in negotiations in Vienna, where Tehran is demanding sanctions relief while accelerating its nuclear program at home.
Bennett’s office said he met Monday with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince and de facto ruler of the Emirates, for some four hours, with more than half of the time spent in one-on-one talks.
In a joint statement, the two countries said the visit marked “another milestone in the development of warm relations and a tremendous partnership.”
It said the two leaders had discussed a number of areas of cooperation, including trade, technology, the environment and tourism, as well as forming a joint research and development fund.
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The statement, however, made no mention of two critical issues: Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and the Iranian nuclear program.
In a video statement before his departure, Bennett said he had held “meaningful, in-depth and straightforward talks” about the region.
“I’m flying back to Israel very optimistic that this relationship can set an example of how we can make peace in the Middle East,” he said.
Israel and the UAE last year signed an deal to normalize relations that was brokered by the Trump administration under the so-called Abraham Accords, a series of diplomatic agreements between Israel and Arab countries that also included Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
Israel and the UAE have long shared concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Iran says its nuclear program is meant for peaceful purposes, while Israel says it will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
Bennett took office as prime minister six months ago at the head of a coalition of eight parties united in their opposition to longtime former leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli premier, who arrived in the UAE on Sunday as part of a blitz of regional diplomacy, said after landing that he looks “forward to strengthen the diplomatic relations between the countries.”
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