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Israeli delegation in UAE ahead of regional summit, despite tensions

Officials meet to further normalisation deals days after Abu Dhabi condemned the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by an Israeli far-right minister
Israeli and UAE flags line a road in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya on 16 August 2020 (AFP)

A delegation of senior Israeli officials made their way to Abu Dhabi on Sunday to prepare for the upcoming Arab-Israeli Negev Summit that is set to be held in Morocco later this year.

The meeting comes despite recent tension between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel over the status quo at Al-Asqa Mosque.

Earlier this week, Israel's far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque's courtyards in occupied East Jerusalem in a move that inflamed tensions.

The UAE, which normalised relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords, released a statement on Tuesday condemning the storming of Al-Aqsa.

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"The UAE today strongly condemned the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard by an Israeli minister under the protection of Israeli forces," said the statement.

It called on "Israeli authorities to assume responsibility for reducing escalation and instability in the region".

The UAE also "stressed the need to support all regional and international efforts to advance the Middle East peace process, end illegal practices that threaten the two-state solution, and establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital".

Following the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the UAE and China called for a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the actions of the Israeli government.

The Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi is expected to include lower-level engagements between ministerial staff to iron out their mutual agendas.

Boosting normalisation

The Negev Summit was first held last year at Israel's Sde Boker kibbutz, which saw the foreign ministers of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and the United States come together. Another session was held in October via Zoom.

The aim of the meetings is to further enshrine the Abraham Accords by increasing coordination between the countries on issues such as security, energy, tourism, education and water security.

It will be one of the first meetings between the countries and Israel's new far-right government.

Meanwhile, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price expressed the country's continued support of the Negev Summit earlier this week.

"Since the conclusion of the Negev Forum last year, the inaugural convening of the Negev Forum, it has always been our intention to bring together the Negev participants at the ministerial level," Price said.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also planning an official visit to the UAE for his first foreign trip as leader of the country's new government.

While details are still being worked out, Netanyahu could visit the UAE as early as next week, Israeli media reported.

During his previous term in office, Netanyahu signed the US-backed Abraham Accords, which normalised relations between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

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