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Countries across the Middle East must put aside their differences to tackle the climate crisis, according to Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection.
Tamar Zandberg made the comments at her country’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on Monday evening, during Expo's Climate and Biodiversity week.
She said climate change would impact countries in the region more than elsewhere, in particular when it came to water shortages.
“I would like to take this opportunity to call on all of the countries of the region, not just those with formal agreements, to use the expo as a springboard for advanced co-operation,” said Ms Zandberg.
“The expo is the perfect opportunity to launch new relationships with new friends.”
She pointed to the success of the Abraham Accords as an example of how countries in the region could work together for mutual benefit.
The UAE, Israel and Bahrain only signed the treaties a little more than a year ago but Ms Zandberg did not rule out similar agreements with other nations in the region.
“I think the potential is huge as we have a significant Jewish and Arabic population in Israel and we want to interact with our friends across the Middle East,” she said.
Israel's pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai
While Israel’s participation in the world’s fair in Dubai was confirmed long before the historic agreement was reached with the UAE, the success of the deal meant its presence on site was amplified, said the Israeli minister.
“It was initially meant to be more low-key,” she said.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also illustrated the benefits of neighbouring countries working together, according to Ms Zandberg.
“There is much in common between the fight against Covid-19 and climate change,” she said.
“Both were science-based crises, both require global co-operation and both have devastating outcomes.”
The challenges facing the Middle East should be a catalyst for co-operation, she said.
A recent report from Unicef said nine out of 10 children in the Middle East and North Africa live in areas of high or extreme water stress.
The same report said 11 out of the 17 most water-stressed countries in the world were located in the Mena region.
The first week of Expo 2020 Dubai has a climate and biodiversity theme, with a series of panel discussions and minister-led events focusing on how countries can work together to better manage climate change.
A celebration of Ukraine
Elsewhere at the world's fair, day four was dedicated to Ukraine, and the country celebrated its honour day with a flag-raising ceremony and the playing of its national anthem at Al Wasl Plaza.
Each country participating in Expo 2020 Dubai will be able to celebrate their national day — or an honour day — during the six-month event.
Following the official speeches, traditional musicians provided entertainment for the audience at the plaza, while entrepreneurs and industry leaders gathered at Expo's Business Connect Centre to discuss partnership and trade opportunities in Ukraine.
The three-zoned Ukrainian pavilion is designed to encourage visitors to live, think and feel smart, and focuses on sustainable development in an innovative and mobile society.
Meanwhile, Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed, chairwoman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, visited the UAE pavilion at Expo.
She was given a tour of the striking building by Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth and commissioner general of the UAE pavilion.
Exhibits include a striking sandscape, a gallery of global dreamers who built their lives in the UAE, and a futuristic glimpse into the future.
“I am speechless. My life has changed a lot since the opening ceremony,” she told The National. “I didn’t think it would be so big and the fame would be like ‘wow’.
“I’ve been receiving a lot of offers, projects and commercials. I’ve also got the UAE National Day 50th celebrations so I might be doing that too.”
Born in Dubai to an Indian father and a Belarusian mother, Mira, who has been modelling since she was 6, has also seen her popularity rise on social media. Her Instagram account, which had a little more than 1,000 followers before the Expo ceremony, now boasts more than 10,000.
But Mira said she was “really nervous” before the show began on Thursday.
“There were so many famous and important people and I didn’t want to let anyone down,” she said. “But I was also very excited because I really love performing on stage.”