Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 25 November 2020

UAE and Israel agree to visa-free travel and $3bn Abraham Fund

Two Emirati ministers make first official UAE visit to Tel Aviv

The UAE and Israel agreed to allow visa-free travel and formed a private sector-led investment fund as ministers from the two countries signed deals in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

The $3 billion Abraham Fund was set up by the two countries, along with the US International Development Finance Corporation, on the first ministerial visit after the two countries established diplomatic ties.

Abdulla bin Touq, Minister of Economy, and Obaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs, were on an Etihad Airways plane that touched down at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv at 1pm UAE time on Tuesday.

They were accompanied by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Middle East envoy Ari Berkowitz, who were in Abu Dhabi for talks on Monday.

We are committed to supporting a legal framework for the movement of people and goods between the UAE and the state of Israel

Obaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs

The delegation was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu said the two countries would have reciprocal visa-free travel, a move that makes Emirati citizens the first in the Arab world to not require Israeli entry permits.

“Today, we are making history. We are making history in a way that will stand for generations,” he said in a ceremony held on the tarmac.

“We will remember this day, a glorious day of peace.”

The countries will open a development office in Israel to identify and initiate projects that boost economic growth, improve standards of living and create high-value jobs.

Mr Al Tayer said the two sides would also discuss financial co-operation and trade to strengthen their economies. and that an agreement would be signed on double taxation.

He said the deals had many benefits for the two countries.

“We are committed to supporting a legal framework for the movement of people and goods between the UAE and the state of Israel, to achieve prosperity for both of our ­people and economies,” Mr Al Tayer said.

“It has been a pleasure being with you all today. We look forward to welcoming you to the UAE in the near future.”

Earlier, the Israeli government said agreements on aviation, investment protection, visa exemptions and science and technology would be signed.

A deal authorising 28 commercial flights a week between the countries was due to be signed yesterday.

The UAE announced its decision to normalise relations with Israel in August. Known as the Abraham Accord, the agreement was signed at a White House event last month.

Since then, the two countries have struck several commercial deals.

A key tenet of the accord was the assurance from Israel that it would suspend the annexation of Palestinian territory, including the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley.

The UAE is the third Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel and establish diplomatic relations, after Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, respectively.

Bahrain also normalised relations with Israel and signed an official agreement in Manama on Sunday.

US President Donald Trump gave Washington’s blessing to Israel’s annexation of large areas of the West Bank, including the settlements considered illegal under international law, in his peace plan unveiled in January.

The UAE has consistently reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Updated: October 21, 2020 08:58 AM

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