UAE delegation heads to Israel on first official visit

Dubai (AFP) –


A United Arab Emirates delegation left on the country's first official visit to Israel on Tuesday after the two countries agreed to normalise ties last month.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who attended a business dinner with Emirati and Israeli officials in Abu Dhabi on Monday, accompanied the delegation on the Etihad Airways flight.

"This morning, UAE prepares to send its first official delegation to Israel," tweeted Hend Al Otaiba, director of strategic communications at the foreign ministry.

She added that the UAE delegation was headed by the minister of state for financial affairs, Obaid Al Tayer, and Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq Al Mari.

The UAE and Israel signed a US-brokered deal to normalise ties at the White House on September 15, marking the first such deal with a Gulf nation.

Bahrain followed suit in a ceremony on Sunday, following a similar US-brokered agreement.

The Israeli parliament ratified the UAE deal last week.

The two governments are due to sign an agreement on Tuesday authorising 28 commercial flights a week between the countries, an Israeli transport ministry official said.

The UAE and Bahrain are only the third and fourth Arab states to normalise ties with Israel, following Israel's 1979 peace deal with Egypt and a 1994 agreement with Jordan.

On Monday, the Emirati and Bahraini governments ratified the normalisation agreements with Israel, according to the two countries' state news agencies.

According to an Israeli government statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will greet the UAE delegation at Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv.

"Agreements will be signed on aviation, investment protection, visa exemptions... and science and technology," it added.