Abu Dhabi, MINA – Israel’s top diplomat Yair Lapid, newly appointed foreign minister, opened the Jewish state’s first embassy in the Gulf on a trip to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday after relations normalized last year.
He met with his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, tweeting a picture of the two of them shaking hands shortly after the opening of the embassy, Arab News reported.
Lapid earlier also tweeted a photo of himself and UAE minister Noura al-Kaabi cutting a ribbon in the blue and white of the Israeli flag.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the opening as “historic”.
Lapid’s visit and the opening of the first Israeli embassy in a Gulf state are “significant for Israel, the UAE, and the broader region”, he said in a statement.
Israeli ministers have previously visited the UAE, but newly appointed Lapid became the most senior Israeli to make the trip, and the first on an official mission.
“Israel wants peace with its neighbours. With all its neighbours. We aren’t going anywhere. The Middle East is our home. We’re here to stay. We call on all the countries of the region to recognise that. And to come talk to us,” Lapid said during the opening ceremony.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said Lapid would meet “five (Emirati) ministers in less than 30 hours”.
Since their US-brokered normalisation agreement was signed last September, Israel and the UAE have signed a raft of deals ranging from tourism to aviation and financial services.
During his visit, Lapid was also due to inaugurate a consulate in Dubai.
Lapid’s trip comes nearly a year after the nations moved to normalise ties, and it follows a string of visits by Israeli officials that were planned then scrapped over issues including the Covid pandemic and diplomatic scuffles.
The normalisation accords Israel struck last year with the UAE and then also with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have been condemned by the Palestinians.
The deals break with years of Arab League policy of no relations with Israel until it makes peace with the Palestinians.
Also on Tuesday, Bahrain appointed its first ambassador to Israel.
Lapid is a centrist former television presenter who tenaciously hammered together Israel’s new coalition, ending Netanyahu’s more than decade-long tenure as prime minister.
He has sought to break from his rival’s policies, saying Monday that Netanyahu’s government had taken “a terrible gamble” by focussing only on ties with the Republican party in Washington. (R/R6/RE1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)