UAE envoy to US hints at expanded food and tech co-operation with Israel

Yousef Al Otaiba says two initial working groups could lead to expanded collaboration in other key areas

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE's ambassador to the US, floated the prospect of building upon the Abraham Accords to expand co-operation between Arab countries that have recognised Israel. Bloomberg
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Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the US, on Wednesday suggested that the Emirates would seek to expand two recently announced working groups with Israel to encompass food security, agriculture and technology, including artificial intelligence.

Mr Al Otaiba also noted that the energy working group the three countries established this year to build on the Abraham Accords included a focus on “water and climate”, while the religious co-existence working group emphasised “inclusion and tolerance".

“You’re going to start with sort of the low-hanging fruit,” Mr Al Otaiba said during remarks at the Atlantic Council.

“But there is absolutely no reason for us not to have similar working groups on food security and agriculture, on technology, on AI, on a range of issues where it will be beneficial — not just for the US and Israel, or the UAE and Israel, but for the entire region.”

He also floated the prospect of building upon the Abraham Accords to expand co-operation between Arab countries that have recognised Israel, while also noting opportunities for collaboration with the occupied Palestinian territories, noting that “there’s much, much more potential to accomplish greater things for the region if we work together".

“Why don’t we have conversations about what we can do with technology and start-ups and venture capital between the three countries that benefit the entire region, including Palestine, Jordan and Egypt?” asked Mr Al Otaiba.

“I think we’re just starting to pull on this thread, honestly.”

The three countries launched their initial working groups on energy and religion during a meeting in Washington this month between Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, and his Israeli and American counterparts, Yair Lapid and Antony Blinken.

The next week, Sheikh Abdullah also participated in a meeting with his US, Israeli and Indian counterparts that aimed to enhance India’s role in the region.

He met with Mr Blinken on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Cop26 climate summit in Scotland.

The UAE and US unveiled a $4 billion joint climate initiative at Cop26 on Tuesday. The initiative, which is intended to enhance climate resilience and adaptation across the globe, will include a $1bn contribution from the UAE.

Mr Al Otaiba added that the Abraham Accords would “have a spillover effect for everyone, whether it’s in Jordan and Egypt, whether it’s in the Palestinian territories.

“If we are starting to do investments in energy and climate, if we are doing things on green energy, I think it’s going to benefit the entire region.”

Updated: November 03, 2021, 6:14 PM