Israel foreign minister Yair Lapid planning visit to UAE

Israel Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will next week hold the first and historic official visit of an Israeli minister to the United Arab Emirates.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is planning to travel to the United Arab Emirates soon, in his first foreign trip since taking up the position, the Walla news site reported Sunday. The trip would be the first by an Israeli minister to the Emirates since the signing of the Abraham Accords normalization deals.

While the accords were led by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Trump administration, both countries have already signalled that they plan to continue to forge ahead with improving ties.

Walla, citing senior officials in Jerusalem, said Lapid would meet with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed. The two have already spoken since the new government took over in Israel last week. Lapid’s office declined to comment on the report.

Last week the UAE and Bahrain issued statements welcoming the new Israeli government. Following the call with bin Zayed, Lapid said he looked forward “to working with him to build on the warm and unique relations between our two countries for the benefit of our peoples and the entire Middle East.”

The new government, an unlikely alliance of right-wing, left-wing, centrist, and Islamist parties, was sworn in last Sunday, ending Netanyahu’s 12-year term in office.

Lapid in his first speech as a foreign minister highlighted his diplomatic priorities, including building on the Abraham Accords, which also saw Israel sign deals with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

“Part of our work will of course be to strengthen our presence in the region. Great things have happened this past year. We need to continue the development that started with the Abraham Accords. To work to strengthen the peace with the Gulf States, with Egypt and with Jordan,” Lapid said last Monday.

“We will work to sign agreements with more countries in the region and beyond. It’s a process, it won’t happen in a day, but the Foreign Ministry will coordinate those efforts,” he said, indicating a shift in the Israeli approach.

In recent years Israel’s efforts to expand its ties with the Arab world have largely been conducted by the Mossad. There have also been reports that talks are underway between Israel, the US, the UAE and Bahrain aimed at holding a ceremony in September to mark the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords.

It was not yet clear where the event will be held or whether the ceremony might be used to announce the addition of another country to the normalization circle.