Israeli president on first-ever visit to UAE

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Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (right) meeting with Israel's President Isaac Herzog (left) during an official reception at Qasr Al-Watan in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on January 30, 2022. (Photo: UAE News Agency/AFP)
ABU DHABI — Israel's President Isaac Herzog started his first visit to the UAE on Sunday, the latest high-profile diplomatic trip since the countries normalized ties.اضافة اعلان

It follows a visit by Naftali Bennett last month, the first by an Israeli premier, during which both sides are understood to have discussed Iran's nuclear program, a top Israeli security concern. 

Herzog, traveling with Israeli first lady, arrived at around 0800 GMT in the UAE capital, where he met with Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the president's office said. 

"Beginning the first visit by an Israeli president in the UAE," Herzog tweeted upon arrival. "We were delighted and deeply moved by the warm welcome in Abu Dhabi." 

The visit comes some 16 months after the wealthy Gulf country forged diplomatic ties with Israel, becoming the third Arab nation to do so after Egypt and Jordan.

Herzog also met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the presidential palace, the official Emirati news agency WAM said. 

"The national anthems of the two countries were played, while 21 rounds of artillery were fired to welcome his visit," it reported. 

Sheikh Mohammed expressed hope that the visit would enhance bilateral relations, WAM said, adding that the pair discussed cooperation in fields including the economy, trade, investment, development, technology, and health. 

The president's office said the meeting lasted for over two hours. 

Geopolitical interests

"We completely support your security requirements and we condemn in all forms and language any attack on your sovereignty by terrorist groups," Herzog's office quoted him as saying during the meeting. 

Abu Dhabi was hit this month by a missile and drone attack that killed three foreign workers — the first deadly assault on UAE soil claimed by Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels and acknowledged by the Emiratis.

"We are here together to find ways and means to bring full security to people who seek peace in our region," he added.

Herzog, whose position is largely ceremonial, was also due to meet the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum during the two-day trip — the first official visit to the UAE by an Israeli head of state.

A 2020 normalization deal between the two countries was one of a series of US-brokered agreements known as the Abraham Accords. 

The deals angered the Palestinians and broke with decades of Arab League consensus against recognizing Israel until it signs a peace agreement establishing a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem. 

The accords were negotiated by Bennett's predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who said they would offer Israel new regional allies against Iran and bolster its diplomatic efforts to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. 

Iran is Israel's long-standing nemesis, and Israel is highly skeptical about ongoing efforts by world powers to revive a 2015 deal that gave Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. 

The UAE has strained relations with Iran, backing government-aligned forces fighting the Tehran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen's civil war.

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