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UAE: Israel's Yair Lapid opens country's first embassy in Gulf during visit

Israel's foreign minister is on first official trip by an Israeli minister to the Emirates following the normalisation of ties
Lapid will also inaugurate Israel's consulate in Dubai and sign an agreement on economic cooperation (AFP)

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid opened the country's first embassy in the Gulf on Tuesday, during a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the countries normalised ties last year. 

Lapid tweeted a photo of himself and UAE minister Noura al-Kaabi with a caption reading: "The opening of the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi with the Emirati Minister of Culture and Youth."

The foreign minister landed in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday in the first official visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf state after the two nations normalised ties in September.

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Speaking at the opening ceremony, Lapid said:  "This is an historic moment, and a reminder that history is written by human beings. 

"It is written by people who know history, but who are willing to change it. It is written by people who prefer the future over the past.

"Agreements are signed by leaders, but peace is made between peoples. What we sign today is not the end of the process, but rather, is just the beginning.

"Israel wants peace with its neighbours. With all of its neighbours. We are not going anywhere. 

"The Middle East is our home. We are here to stay, and we call on all countries of the region to recognise this, and to come and talk to us."

Earlier, he had tweeted a picture of himself from inside a plane, with the caption: "Taking off for a historic visit to the UAE."

During the two-day visit, Lapid will also inaugurate Israel's consulate in Dubai, as well as sign an agreement on economic cooperation, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said.

The UAE, along with Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, began normalising relations with Israel last year under the Abraham Accords brokered by then-US President Donald Trump.

Tuesday's agreement will be the 12th between Israel and the UAE since then, Haiat said.

'Stab in the back'

Palestinians have denounced the normalisation deals, describing them as a "stab in the back".

They say the accords violate a longstanding pan-Arab position that Israel could normalise relations only in return for land.

Lapid was welcomed at Abu Dhabi airport (AFP)
Lapid was welcomed at Abu Dhabi airport (AFP)

Israel exchanged embassies with neighbours Egypt and Jordan under peace deals decades ago. 

But until now, all other Arab states had demanded it first cede more land to the Palestinians.

The UAE said it had obtained a major concession from Israel and the US to halt plans to annex territory in the occupied West Bank.

However, Israel has insisted that annexation remains a possibility.

Expo pavilion visit

Lapid is also set to visit the site of Expo 2020 Dubai, a world fair opening in October where Israel has built a pavilion.

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Lapid's plane transited through Saudi airspace. Riyadh, although not having normalised relations with Israel, last year opened its skies to Israel-UAE flights.

The UAE formally opened its embassy in Tel Aviv, temporarily located in the Tel Aviv stock exchange, to little fanfare this month.

Israel's Abu Dhabi embassy is also in a temporary location.

"We are planning for it to be a big one, an important one," Haiat said. "For the time being we are talking about three diplomats."

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