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UAE swears in first ambassador to Israel

Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja was sworn in on Sunday [WAM]

Date of publication: 15 February, 2021

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Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja has been sworn in on Sunday as the first UAE's ambassador to Israel, five months after a controversial normalisation deal.
Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja was sworn in on Sunday as the first Emirati ambassador to Israel, the UAE's official news agency WAM reported.

Al Khaja took the oath in front of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.

He was urged to work on consolidating relations between the UAE and Israel to promote "peace, coexistence and tolerance", WAM reported.

Al Khaja served as cabinet director of the UAE's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdallah Ben Zayed Al-Nahyane.

Sunday's ceremony comes after the cabinet approved the setting up of an embassy in Tel Aviv on January 24 - on the same day that Israel announced its opening of a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi to be headed by Eitan Naeh, the former ambassador to Turkey.

The embassy in Abu Dhabi will be temporary until a permanent premise is found for Israel, which also plans to open a consulate in Dubai, according to Emirati media.

The UAE and Israel signed a US-brokered deal on September 15, known as the Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between the two countries for the first time.

Early in February, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited the UAE and met Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, in the first official visit since normalisation.

At least 130,000 Israelis have visited the UAE since September, according to WAM, and Eitan Naih said around 50,000 visited the UAE per month during the winter season.

Naih acknowledged that "the geographical reality that the UAE is located in the eastern Arabian Peninsula, and Israel is in western Asia, may create a corridor that starts to all parts of the world".

"The business communities in Israel and the UAE are currently seeking to enhance trade cooperation between the two countries," the ambassador said.

In August, US President Donald Trump announced the UAE had become the third Arab country and first Gulf Arab state to normalise ties with Israel, with Bahrain and Sudan following suit.

While the UAE and other Arab states have rushed to embrace Israel, opinion among Arab populations remains strongly against normalisation.

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