Netanyahu praises UAE for inviting Israel into Dubai Expo 2020
At least 192 countries will attend Dubai's Expo 2020 innovation fair, organisers said Thursday, with the Paris-based global body for the mega-events confirming Israel was among the invitees as Gulf Arab states continue apace with controversial normalisation of ties with the Jewish state.
"We have invited every country in the world without exception," organisers in Dubai announced, saying it would be "a truly international event".
Vicente G. Loscertales, head of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), said that "by inviting all countries of the world to take part, including the State of Israel, the organisers of Expo 2020 are genuinely reflecting the universal spirit of World Expos."
Israel's foreign ministry confirmed that the Jewish state had been invited.
"We are excited to be a part of (this) common endeavour," it said.
Organisers in Dubai said that for 170 years, international expos had been "non-political" events.
The BIE describes expos, which follow in the tradition of London's 1851 Great Exhibition, as "large-scale, global events... to educate the public, share innovation, promote progress and foster cooperation".
Expo 2020, which runs from October 20 next year to April 20, 2021, is set to attract some 25 million visitors to the glitzy emirate, famed for its luxury resorts and opulent shopping malls.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised the organisers' decision to invite the Jewish state as Arab states normalise with Israel at the expense of Palestinians, who want the conflict with Israel resolved first.
"I welcome Israel's participation in the Dubai expo," his office said in a statement.
"It is another expression of Israel's rising status in the world and in the region."
Dubai is one of the seven city-states making up the United Arab Emirates, which do not currently have diplomatic relations with Israel.
But the UAE has recently hosted several Israeli ministers, and along with regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, shares Israel's hostility towards nearby Iran.
Officially, Israel only has diplomatic relations with two Arab states, neighbouring Egypt and Jordan.
The Expo 2010 in Shanghai drew 73 million visitors, and Expo 2015 in Milan attracted over 21 million, according to the BIE.
Dubai's government has already spent over $40 billion on major infrastructure projects related to the Expo, including a new $2.9-billion metro line and an expansion to a new airport near the Expo site.
Agencies contributed to this report.