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From left: Malki Shem Tov, CEO of AVS, Producer of the Israel Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, Elazar Cohen, Commissioner General of the Israel Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid, Mohamed Al Khaja, the UAE ambassador to Israel, Alon Ushpiz, director-general at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Eitan Na’eh, Israel’s acting ambassador/Chargé d'affaires to the UAE. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Yair Lapid, Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister, who is in the UAE on his first official visit to the country, visited the Israel Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on Wednesday.

Lapid was accompanied by Reem Ebrahim Al-Hashimi, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Managing Director for the Dubai World Expo 2020 Bid Committee, and Elazar Cohen, Israel Pavilion Commissioner General.

Peace with neighbours

Lapid said: “Israel wants peace with its neighbours. With all its neighbours. We aren’t going anywhere. The Middle East is our home. We’re here to stay. We call on all the countries of the region to recognise that and to come and talk to us.”

Cohen added: Our presence at Expo 2020 Dubai is a great opportunity for both our countries. During the Expo, the Israeli pavilion will serve as a platform to establish bilateral cooperation in business, industry, investments, culture and academia. For the first time visitors across the Middle East will be exposed to Israel’s culture and heritage, our innovation contributions to global human issues as well as our coexistence society.”

Later, speaking at a press conference in Dubai, Lapid said his two-day historic visit to the UAE is the beginning of the road to peace; a message of hope to the entire region and the right path towards prosperity and goodwill among neighbours.

'Message of hope'

“It will not be easy; it will take time. But Israel’s goal is peace in the region and peace with its neighbours. What happened in the last couple of days is a message of hope to the entire region and message of what is the right path towards prosperity and goodwill among neighbours,” Lapid said.

Yair Lapid, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, addressing media in Dubai on Wednesday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Lapid, who is also Israel’s Alternate Prime Minister, arrived in the country on Tuesday. He inaugurated the Israel Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Israel Consulate in Dubai.  

UAE’s warm hospitality

Lapid thanked the UAE leadership for “its warm hospitality and friendship.” He particularly thanked Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who he called “my friend.”

According to Israel's highest-ranking diplomat, his visit is the first of many. “The new Prime Minister (Naftali Bennett) will be extremely happy to come here and visit the UAE as soon as possible. His background is technology and when he sees what’s happening here (UAE), he will be amazed,” Lapid added.

Bilateral trade

Israel-UAE bilateral trade has reached over Dh2.48 billion ($675.22 million), within ten months of signing the Abraham Accords in September 2020.

"It is estimated that the bilateral trade potential will multiply many times over in the coming years," Lapid told WAM.

Next agreements

Lapid said he will return to Israel to start the next series of agreements “which will deepen and strengthen” the relations between the UAE and Israel. He noted the agreements will not only be between the two governments but between businesses as well as people to people relationship.

Lapid was not accompanied by other high-ranking Israel ministers but he said he connected the new Israel ministers with their counterparts in the UAE – with particular focus on energy, AI, technology and cultural affairs.

Consulate opening

After inaugurating the Israel Consulate at Index Tower in Dubai on Wednesday, Lapid said: “What we are opening today is not only a consulate, but also the centre for cooperation. The place that symbolises our ability to think together, to evolve together, to change the world together.”

Israeli Consul-General Ilan Sztulman Starosta told Gulf News: “It was a very emotional moment to finally have the Israeli Consulate in Dubai inaugurated by the Israel Foreign Minister. It (the consulate) represents a leap in the flourishing relationship between the UAE and Israel.”

— With inputs from WAM