U.S. will work with Israel to build on regional normalization agreements: Biden national security adviser

FILE PHOTO: An Israeli flag and an American flag fly at Abu Dhabi International Airport before the arrival of Israeli and U.S. officials, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Christoper Pike

January 25, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration will work closely with Israel on regional security issues and to build on the country’s regional normalization agreements, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told his Israeli counterpart, according to a statement on Sunday.

“They discussed opportunities to enhance the partnership over the coming months, including by building on the success of Israel’s normalization arrangements with UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco,” according to a statement on Sullivan’s call on Saturday with Israel’s Meir Ben Shabbat.

Sullivan also extended an invitation to begin a strategic dialogue in the near term, the statement said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Telephone service between U.A.E. and Israel begins after normalization of ties

The U.A.E. and Israeli foreign ministers held their first publicly acknowledged call on Sunday after the Gulf state opened telephone lines to Israel as part of a normalization of ties.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday announced their U.S.-sponsored rapprochement, which promised a boom in bilateral trade but angered Palestinians and anti-Israel powers, such as Iran.

The foreign ministers of both countries spoke by phone to inaugurate the newly opened lines. Israel’s Gabi Ashkenazi said he and his U.A.E. counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed agreed during the call “to meet soon.”

Israel’s Communications Ministry said U.A.E. telecom providers on Saturday unblocked calls to numbers with Israel’s +972 country code.

Reuters made several calls from the U.A.E. to Israel on Sunday and Israeli news websites that previously were blocked in the U.A.E. could also be seen using U.A.E. internet connections.

Palestinians take part in a protest on Thursday against the United Arab Emirates’ deal with Israel to normalize relations, in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (Raneen Sawafta/Reuters)

“I congratulate the United Arab Emirates on the unblocking,” Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said on Twitter.

“Many economic opportunities will now open up, and these trust-building steps are important for advancing the countries’ interests.”

The U.A.E.’s Telecoms Regulatory Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did the U.A.E.’s two main telecoms operators, Du and Etisalat.

The U.A.E.-Israel agreement says Israeli and U.A.E. delegations will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements covering sectors including investment, tourism and direct flights and the opening of reciprocal embassies.

On Saturday, the first business deal was signed since the accord. Emirati APEX National Investment company and Israel’s Tera Group will co-operate on research and development related to COVID-19, including a testing device.

The U.A.E. foreign ministry in a statement to Reuters said the country expects an agreement on reciprocal visas, saying more details will be announced in due course.

Currently Israelis wishing to visit the U.A.E., and Emiratis wanting to visit Israel, can get special visas assessed on a case-by-case basis by the inviting government, spokespeople for the U.A.E. Foreign Ministry and Israel’s Interior Ministry said.

Numerous Israeli citizens and officials have visited the U.A.E. for sporting events and international conferences. Israel’s culture and sports minister in October 2018 came to watch Israelis compete in an international judo tournament in Abu Dhabi.

Israel is a confirmed participant at the Expo 2020 Dubai world fair, which has been postponed to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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