Yair Lapid: We want to expand the Abraham Accord to the entire region

Talks continue regarding possible quarantine-free travel corridor between the UAE and Israel

Israel wants to build on the success of the Abraham Accord with the UAE and replicate it with similar agreements across the region, Israel’s foreign minister said.

The UAE and Israel signed the historic accord to normalise relations, which included establishing embassies and co-operation in fields such as health care, innovation, aviation, environment and energy.

In the 10 months since the accord was signed, bilateral trade has reached more than Dh2.48 billion ($675.2 million).

Yair Lapid, on the first official visit by a senior Israeli minister since relations with the UAE were established last, said the accord provided a blueprint for other countries in the Middle East looking to establish peace and build prosperity in the region.

This visit isn't the end of the road to peace; it's just the beginning
Yair Lapid, Israeli foreign minister

“The Abraham Accords are proof of what can happen when countries decide to look at the future, when we choose peace over war, [and] co-operation over conflict,” Mr Lapid said in Dubai.

“That is the message to the rest of the Middle East and to the world. Our hand is outstretched, our people are ready, our country's ready and our new government is ready.”

He said Israel would be happy to sign similar agreements with other countries in the Middle East, including its neighbours Saudi Arabia.

“What we want to do is to be able to expand the Abraham Accords to the entire region,” Mr Lapid said.

“Israel's goal is peace in the region and peace with its neighbours. This is extremely important to us.

“We think what is happening here today, and the last couple of days, is a message of hope to the entire region and also a message about what is the right path towards prosperity and goodwill. So yes, if we're able to push forward with the Saudis we will be happy to do so.”

After two days of high-level meetings, including talks with Sheikh Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr Lapid said further agreements will be signed in July in Israel.

“This visit isn't the end of the road to peace; it's just the beginning,” Mr Lapid said.

“We will start work on the next set of agreements between our two countries, which will deepen, strengthen and broaden the relationships.”

Quarantine-free travel

Travel between the UAE and Israel has soared since the agreements were signed, with nearly 200,000 Israelis visiting the UAE in the past nine months.

In March this year, meetings between the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation and its equivalent Israeli department took place to establish a quarantine-free travel corridor.

Rising case numbers, caused by the Covid-19 variants, however, have stalled plans. Mr Lapid said talks are still ongoing and he hopes to establish a "green corridor" soon.

“It's one of our goals to create a green corridor. It's a question for the Ministry of Health because the numbers are rising because of the new variants, so we have to look into it,” he said.

“Our intention is to make this as quickly as possible, but Israel, like the Emirates, is putting health first and foremost. We already discussed this with our minister [Nitzan] Horowitz and our Ministry of Health is going to look into this with the local ministry of health.”

The press conference brought to a close Mr Lapid's two-day visit to the UAE. After opening the country's embassy in Abu Dhabi yesterday, he inaugurated the new Israeli consulate in Dubai.

The minister also toured his country's pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, accompanied on the second day of his state visit by Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation and director general of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau, at the world fair site.

Mr Lapid, a centrist, is credited as the mastermind behind a coalition that this month unseated veteran right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu after more than a decade in office.

Updated: June 30th 2021, 2:38 PM