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Israeli PM Naftali Bennett makes surprise visit to UAE

By Orowo Victoria Ojieh with agency report

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a surprise visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday.

A statement from Bennett’s office said the Israeli leader will meet UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and that the two will discuss “various regional issues,” with Iran likely to top the agenda.

Bennett also met Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Bennett’s visit on Thursday was his second public trip to Abu Dhabi since Israel and the UAE formally normalised ties in 2020 after years of quiet cooperation.

Sheikh Mohammed succeeded his late half-brother Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan last month.

“Today, together, we will take to the special bond that has been woven between our countries to the next level for the growth and security of both our peoples,’’ Bennett said before his departure.

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In 2020, the UAE and Bahrain became the first Gulf states to sign an agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

It was primarily directed against Shiite Iran, which the UAE saw as an arch-enemy, though economic interests also played a role.

Only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, maintained diplomatic relations with Israel.

In a video statement recorded before departing, Bennett commended countries at an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna on Wednesday who voted to censure Iran over its transparency about nuclear activities at three undeclared sites in the country.

“We see here a firm stance by the countries of the world regarding the distinction between good and evil, as they clearly state that Iran is concealing things. We will not let up on this issue,” he said before boarding a plane to the UAE.

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