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UAE and Israel sign "historic" tourism agreement

Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov's visit to the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi in the framework of cooperation between the two countries has resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding in the tourism sector
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WAM/Handout via REUTERS  -   Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid shakes hands with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi

Since September 2020, when the United Arab Emirates became the first Gulf power to sign the Abraham Accords - for the normalisation of its relations with Tel Aviv - the strengthening of its economic and commercial ties with Israel seems to have taken on a momentum that is difficult to stop. The two countries' clear intention to consolidate these cooperative ties has materialised, this time, in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The document - formalised during the meeting between the Israeli Minister of Tourism, Yoel Razvozov, and the Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs and Chairman of the UAE Tourism Council, Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi, in the Arab country - aims to strengthen tourism cooperation and support bilateral and economic relations between the two powers. In fact, as part of this rapprochement initiative, the signing of the memorandum took place during the Israeli minister's visit to Abu Dhabi. 

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REUTERS/TOM BRENNE - From left, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed display their copies of the signed agreements as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as they participate in the Abraham Accords signing ceremony in Washington

"This MoU represents an important historic step in our relations with the UAE," Razvozov posted on his official Twitter account after the meeting with Al Falasi. "We call on all countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to do the same in order to build together a new regional reality based on prosperity, security and stability of our peoples," he added. 

The agreement comes just days after the Israeli tourism minister met with his Emirati counterpart, Mohamed al-Mubarak, for talks on tourism cooperation, which Razvozov described as "fruitful". 

The memorandum includes a mutual commitment to implement measures to encourage and promote the tourism sectors in the two countries, as well as to improve cooperation between public and private tourism institutions.

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PHOTO/WAM - Naftali Bennett, Prime Minister of Israel and Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

Similarly, Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv have agreed to intensify the exchange of information in the areas of tourism education, vocational training, marketing and promotional activities; to foster technical cooperation and to encourage participation in tourism events and exhibitions. The two countries hope to organise and carry out joint regional tourism events.

"We are working towards a stronger link in this vital sector, which is an important bridge for the development of economic relations between the two countries," said Emirati Minister Ahmed Al Falasi. 

However, the rapprochement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is extending to a number of sectors, and in parallel, the two powers have concluded their first cooperation agreement in the field of space. The Israeli Space Agency has issued a joint call for proposals with Abu Dhabi, asking research groups from both countries to submit joint proposals based on data collected by the VENµS microsatellite on vegetation and environmental monitoring. 

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PHOTO - Dubai Expo 2020
Dubai Expo 2020

This space partnership project has been developed in accordance with an important cooperation pact that was reached in October 2021 in Dubai. Indeed, the hosting of 'Expo Dubai 2020' has provided a great opportunity for the Israeli business community to develop beneficial economic partnerships in key sectors with Emirati companies.

As the ultimate expression of this mutual understanding during the event, Israel's National Day keynote speech at Expo Dubai 2020 - delivered by the country's President Isaac Herzog - included distinguished allusions to the relationship between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi. 

"This pavilion has provided a phenomenal showcase of what we have to offer, from water technology and sustainable agriculture to public health, smart cities and innovative solutions for a circular economy. And it has been a practical showcase of cooperation between nations, of the future we can all imagine. An idea that has become a reality right here, following the signing of the historic Abraham Accords by the United Arab Emirates and its leaders," Herzog said.

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REUTERS/RONEN ZVULUN - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement with President-elect Isaac Herzog
The Abraham Accords 

Almost all of the economic and trade ties, now worth more than $1 billion, took off after the signing of the Abraham Accords. In September 2020, Abu Dhabi became the third power to normalise diplomatic relations with Israel - after Egypt and Jordan. The first in the Persian Gulf. Although, subsequently, countries such as Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have followed in its footsteps.

Since then, diplomatic relations in the region have undergone a 180-degree turnaround. Especially Emirati diplomacy. In the last two months alone, the country has been visited by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Hebrew President Isaac Herzog. The latter, held at the request of Crown Prince and 'de facto' ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has been described as historic and has become a symbol of reconciliation between the two countries. Moreover, for the first time since the normalisation of relations, three members of the UAE's Federal National Council visited the Israeli parliament earlier this week.