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Israeli PM Bennett’s historic UAE visit another chapter of changing Middle East

In November, Israeli weapons maker Elbit Systems launched a new venture in the UAE, after Emirati and Israeli air force commanders visited each other's nations

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 12 December in the first official visit by a premier of the Jewish since they established diplomatic ties last year.

The Israeli prime minister met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan today to discuss “deepening the ties between Israel and the UAE, especially economic and regional issues,” Bennett’s office said.

“This is the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister to the UAE,” it said in a statement.

The UAE last year became the third majority Arab nation to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, after its neighbours Egypt and Jordan.

Bahrain and Morocco then followed as part of a series of deals brokered by former US President Donald Trump. Sudan agreed to normalise ties with Israel under the pacts known as the Abraham Accords, but full relations have not yet materialised.

The Abraham Accords were negotiated by Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the deals would offer Israel new regional allies against its archrival Iran and bolster its diplomatic efforts to stop the Islamic republic from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Bennett’s visit comes as Iran and world powers have resumed negotiations on the frayed 2015 nuclear deal that offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Iran says its nuclear programme is civilian in nature.

Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal in 2018 and stepped up sanctions against Iran.

Talks in now aim to bring the United States back into the deal and return Iran to full compliance with its commitments.

Bennett has called for the talks to be halted, accusing Tehran of “nuclear blackmail” and charging that it will use any from sanctions relief to bolster a military arsenal that can harm Israel.

UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al-Nahyan visited Iran earlier this month.

The trip was the first of its kind since relations between the two countries were downgraded in 2016.

Since the Abraham Accords were signed, Israel and UAE have inked a series of deals on economic and cooperation.

In November, Israeli weapons maker Elbit Systems launched a new venture in the UAE, after Emirati and Israeli air force commanders visited each other’s nations.

The Abraham Accords were strongly condemned by the Palestinians as they broke with decades of Arab League consensus against recognising Israel until it signed a peace establishing a Palestinian with a capital in east Jerusalem.

While Bennett is the first Israel prime minister to visit UAE, his Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made a landmark visit there in June, opening an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai, while the UAE established an embassy in Tel Aviv.

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