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AFP
October 21, 2020

Israel, UAE agree to visa-free travel as ties deepen

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AFP
October 21, 2020

TEL AVIV: Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed Monday to visa-free travel, an unprecedented arrangement between Israel and an Arab state, signed after the first ever official UAE delegation landed in Tel Aviv.

"Today, we are making history in a way that will stand for generations," Netanyahu said at the opening of their one-day meeting. During the talks, the UAE formally requested permission to establish an embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel´s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The visit, hailed as a "glorious day for peace" by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, came after Israel and the Gulf state agreed to normalise ties in a deal inked at the White House last month. With their economies hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE and Israel are hoping for rapid dividends from the normalisation deal — which broke years of Arab consensus that there should be no relations with the Jewish state until it makes peace with the Palestinians.

Palestine Liberation Organisation senior member Wassel Abu Youssef told AFP the Emirati visit was “another stab in the back” of the Palestinian cause.

The UAE became the third Arab state to establish ties with Israel, followed soon after by Bahrain. While Israel has peace deals with neighbouring Egypt and Jordan, it requires citizens of both countries to obtain visas before entry. Shortly after greeting the UAE delegation at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, a mask-wearing Netanyahu vowed that visa-free travel will “offer a huge boost for business (and) tourism”. - Israel and the UAE also signed accords on investment protection, science and technology, and a civil aviation deal authorising 28 flights a week between the two countries.

Israeli carrier Arkia later announced plans to run seven weekly flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai, beginning in January.