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Israel's PM Bennett meets crown prince in UAE

Israel makes diplomatic push against renewed nuclear talks between Iran and world powers
Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed receives Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett following his arrival in the Emirati capital, on 12 December 2021 (AFP/HO/GPO)

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) on Monday in the first public meeting between an Israeli leader and the United Arab Emirates' de facto ruler.

Bennett met the crown prince at his private palace, Israeli officials said, following his arrival in the Emirati capital late on Sunday.

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The visit has been hailed as groundbreaking by officials in both countries, with the Israeli premier saying it reflected a "new reality" for the region.

The trip, which is expected to focus on trade links, comes just a year after the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco normalised ties with Israel under US-negotiated agreements. 

"In my opinion, this is... the new reality this region is witnessing, and we are working together to ensure a better future for our children," Bennett told the UAE's official WAM news agency, adding that there had already been major increases in trade opportunities "with limitless future opportunities to develop it."

"Israel, like the UAE, is a regional hub for trade. Our cooperation provides unprecedented economic opportunities not only for us, but for more countries," he said.

Israeli officials said Bennett was also set to meet the UAE's technology and transport ministers.

Diplomatic drive against Iran

Amir Hayek, Israel's ambassador to Abu Dhabi, also added that the issue of Iran was on the agenda for talks in the UAE.

Israel has been attempting to build up an international alliance against the Islamic Republic over fears that the US could return to the 2015 agreement that saw sanctions lifted on the country in return for limits on its nuclear programme.

Although Israel's recognition agreement with the UAE was in part about unifying stances against Iran, the UAE has recently angered Israel after it began trying to improve relations with Tehran. 

Last week the UAE sent its National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Tehran, the first visit of its kind since relations were downgraded in 2016.

The move has alarmed some in Israel, with one senior security official telling the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper last week that Iran-UAE rapprochement was "not acceptable."

"At a time when thousands of Israelis visit the UAE and are welcomed with open arms, Iranian presence [there] might be dangerous. Israel is keeping its eyes open to the new axis between Abu Dhabi and Tehran," the Israeli official said.