Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives in UAE for start of official visit

PM was greeted by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in the UAE on Sunday for the start of a landmark visit.

Mr Bennett was welcomed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, at the Presidential Terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Also in attendance were Mohamed Al Khaja, UAE ambassador to Israel, and Amir Hayek, Israel's ambassador to the UAE.

The two nations formalised relations last year, paving the way for what is the first official trip to the UAE by an Israeli prime minister.

Prime Minister Bennett thanked Sheikh Abdullah for his "hospitality and a splendid welcome", Israel's government press office said.

"He was very moved to be in the UAE, on the first official visit by an Israeli leader. He said that he expected to strengthen the network of relations between the two countries," it added.

The visit came after Mr Al Khaja delivered a letter of invitation to Mr Bennett in October on behalf of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Mr Al Khaja conveyed the best wishes of the UAE leadership during that meeting.

"Steps towards peace continue and relations are getting stronger for the sake of our people and future generations," he said.

Mr Al Khaja was appointed the UAE's first ambassador to Israel in February as part of continuing efforts to forge closer links between the countries.

Since the UAE formally established ties with Israel, through the signing of the Abraham Accords in September last year, much work has been done to bolster a flourishing friendship.

This year, the UAE Cabinet approved the opening of an embassy in Tel Aviv.

Israel's Foreign Ministry previously said it opened an embassy in Abu Dhabi with the arrival of the country's envoy, Eitan Naeh.

The two nation's have strengthened bonds in a variety of sectors, from culture to trade.

In September, Sheikh Mohamed was named the recipient of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Scholar-Statesman Award in recognition of his role in cementing the Abraham Accords.

The institute made the announcement on the anniversary of the historic agreements.

The institute praised Sheikh Mohamed’s “leadership in securing the breakthrough peace agreement between the UAE and Israel, as well as his commitment to expanding religious tolerance at home".

This month, Sheikh Mohamed was also congratulated on the success of the UAE's Golden Jubilee celebrations, during a call from Isaac Herzog, President of Israel.

Mr Herzog wished the UAE leadership and its people further progress and prosperity, and expressed his hope that relations between the countries would continue to develop.

Sheikh Mohamed thanked Mr Herzog for his warm remarks and called for the nations to continue to co-operate for the good of both and for the region at large.

Updated: December 13th 2021, 7:14 AM