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Israel FM to make first state visit to UAE next week

Israel's centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid delivers a statement to the press at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem on May 31, 2021. - Lapid said "many obstacles" remain before a diverse coalition to oust long-serving right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can be agreed. (Photo by DEBBIE HILL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DEBBIE HILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Israel's foreign minister Yair Lapid at the Knesset in Jerusalem on 31 May 2021 [DEBBIE HILL/POOL/AFP/Getty Images]

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE) next week, in the first such trip by a top Israeli diplomat to the Gulf state since the countries agreed to normalise ties late last year.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced today that Lapid will visit the UAE from 29-30 June and inaugurate an Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai.

"Israel-UAE ties are an important relationship whose fruits are enjoyed not only by the citizens of the two countries, but of the entire Middle East," it said in a statement.

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Lapid was the driving force behind a new Israeli government sworn in just over a week ago that ended Benjamin Netanyahu's record 12-year run as prime minister.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted a message of support after Lapid's announcement.

"This is an important historic event," Bennett wrote. "Israeli-Emirates relations are an important part of Israel's foreign policy and we will work to deepen them."

"Good luck Yair," he added, along with the Israeli and Emirati flags.

Last year's normalisation deals signed by the UAE and Bahrain, followed by Sudan and Morocco, were denounced by Palestinians who claimed the states had abandoned a unified position under which Arab countries would make peace only after a two-state solution, negotiations for which have been deadlocked for years.

Abu Dhabi said the deal was an effort to stave off Tel Aviv's planned annexation of the occupied West Bank, however, opponents believe normalisation efforts have been in the offing for many years as Israeli officials have made official visits to the UAE and attended conferences in the country which had no diplomatic or other ties with the occupation state.

Several bilateral agreements on investment, tourism, direct flights, security and telecommunications were signed following the peace deal.

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