UAE, Israeli ministers plan to meet as business deals begin to take shape

The city hall in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv is lit up in the colours of the UAE national flag on 13 August | Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images | Bloomberg

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Jerusalem/Dubai: Israel and the United Arab Emirates took tangible steps toward normalizing ties on Sunday, with the Gulf emirate lifting its block on calls with the Jewish state and companies forming a cross-border joint venture to research the coronavirus.

The landmark call took place between UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan and his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, who exchanged greetings and agreed to meet soon. Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel hailed the UAE move to unblock calls as a confidence-building prelude to economic opportunities for both countries.

The agreement to make peace announced Thursday set aside decades of enmity with promises to exchange ambassadors and open ties through air travel, tourism, investment, security and telecommunications. Israeli wireless operator Partner Communications said Sunday that it was in advanced talks to form a mutual roaming service agreement with Emirates Telecommunications Corp., the United Arab Emirates’ biggest telephone company known as Etisalat.

Israir Airlines Ltd. has started the process of applying for a landing permit in the UAE, Chief Executive officer Uri Sirkis said on Sunday.While the communications arena was being cracked open, UAE-based APEX National Investment agreed to conduct research on the coronavirus with Israel’s TeraGroup. Even before the diplomatic breakthrough, there were preliminary ties with Israeli hospitals on fighting the outbreak.

In a lighter vein, a popular Israeli singer said he’s is in negotiations to appear in the UAE. Several months ago Omer Adam sent UAE leaders a video greeting thanking them for supporting the small Jewish community in the emirates, his spokesman said.

Israel and the UAE announced on Thursday that they would begin normalizing relations. Ties between Israel and Gulf Arab states have warmed in recent years, in a large part due to a shared distrust of Iran and its regional and nuclear ambitions. Israeli and American officials have said they expect other Arab nations to follow the UAE’s suit.

On Sunday, the UAE summoned the Iranian charges d’affaires in Abu Dhabi over President Hassan Rouhani’s reaction to the deal, which it deemed “inflammatory.” The UAE’s official letter said Iran’s response had serious implications for the region’s stability, according to a tweet by Hend Al Otaiba, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ director of strategic communications.

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