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Israel-UAE deal: Abu Dhabi repeals boycott law, allows economic agreements

Announcement comes as Israel's El Al is set to operate the country's first direct flight to the UAE capital
Palestinians have condemned the UAE-Israel normalisation deal as an act of "betrayal" and "a stab on the back" (AFP)

The ruler of the United Arab Emirates has issued a decree cancelling a law on boycotting Israel and allowing trade and financial agreements between the two countries, the UAE official news agency WAM reported on Saturday.

The decree from UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan aims at "supporting bilateral cooperation in order to arrive at [the establishment] of bilateral relations," the agency said.

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"It will be permissible to enter, exchange or possess Israeli goods and products of all kinds in the UAE and trade in them."

Companies and individuals in the UAE may now enter into agreements with firms or individuals residing in Israel, WAM added. 

In Tel Aviv, Israeli Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster said Israel was working on potential joint projects that could help improve the oil-rich Gulf nation's food security, such as water desalination and crop cultivation in the desert.

"With their money and our experience, we could go a long way," he told a local radio station in an interview broadcast on Friday. "Our job is to ensure that this fantastic mood is turned into reality."

'Betrayal'

The UAE will be the first Gulf state and only the third Arab country to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel, a move condemned by the Palestinians as a betrayal.

The announcement comes as El Al Israel Airlines plans to operate Israel's first direct flight between Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport and the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, carrying an Israeli delegation and top aides to US President Donald Trump, who brokered the controversial accord on 13 August to normalise Israel-UAE ties.

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Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner will be among the US officials on the El Al flight departing on 31 August at 10 am (0700 GMT), a US official said.

The Israel-UAE deal awaits negotiations on details such as opening embassies, trade and travel links before it is officially signed.

There are no official air links between Israel and the UAE, and it was unclear whether El Al would be able to fly over Saudi Arabia, which has no official ties with Israel, to cut down on flight time.

In May, an Etihad Airways plane flew from the UAE to Tel Aviv to deliver supplies to the Palestinians to use for the novel coronavirus epidemic, marking the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday concluded his Middle East tour aimed at pressing other Arab countries to follow the UAE's recent move and normalise relations with Israel.

The tour was less than successful, however, as stops in Bahrain, Oman and Sudan failed to produce any public commitments to mend relations with Israel, following Abu Dhabi's decision to do so earlier this month.