Israel seeks permanent energy delegate in UAE

Minister says Israel would like permanent representation in Abu Dhabi, despite no diplomatic ties
By Daniel Shane
Tue 21 Jan 2014 10:47 AM

Authorities in Israel are seeking to place a permanent delegate in the UAE as a representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a report in the country said.

Israel’s energy minister Silvan Shalom is currently in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi, where IRENA is headquartered, and is attending Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week along with an Israeli delegation.

The UAE, along with most other Arab states, has not had diplomatic relations with Israel since the state’s foundation in 1948, which caused the first Arab-Israeli War. The exceptions are Egypt and Jordan. Israeli passport holders are not permitted to enter the Gulf state, and no official Israeli delegation has visited the UAE since the former was suspected of being involved in the assassination a senior Hamas commander in Dubai four years ago.

Kuwaiti officials have already boycotted the IRENA meeting due to the presence of Israel.

“We would like to have full representation here (in Abu Dhabi),” Shalom told the Jerusalem Post. “Every country has a mission with diplomats who live here. When they came to the decision to move the headquarters to Abu Dhabi, they made sure with the authorities that they would give every country the option to be here – to be here not only for the convention but to be here permanently.”

Shalom added that no delegates from Arab or Muslim-majority states left the room while he addressed the IRENA assembly on Sunday, although representatives from Iran switched seats to the back of the conference hall.

A senior government official in the UAE stressed that the presence of Israel was not an indication of a normalisation of relations between the Gulf state and Israel. “The UAE has been able, through a delicate balance, to differentiate between Israel’s membership in IRENA and the normalisation of bilateral ties which Israel has been seeking,” the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Mohammad Gargash reportedly wrote on Twitter.

Both Israel and the Gulf states however share a mutual distrust of regional Shi’ite Muslim power Iran, which the former strongly believes is weaponising its nuclear energy programme.

Dubai ruler and UAE vice president and prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum told a BBC News reporter in an interview last week that the UAE would trade with Israel if it committed to signing a peace accord with the Palestinians.

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