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Tue 1 Sep 2020 07:57 PM

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US-Israeli delegation leaves Abu Dhabi after historic visit

The UAE and Israel are expected to sign the US-brokered accord at the White House in coming weeks

US-Israeli delegation leaves Abu Dhabi after historic visit

A US-Israeli delegation left Abu Dhabi on Tuesday after a visit aimed at charting the relationship between the UAE and the Jewish state after their landmark deal to establish diplomatic ties. (Photo by Karim SAHIB / AFP) (Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images)

A US-Israeli delegation left Abu Dhabi on Tuesday after a visit aimed at charting the relationship between the UAE and the Jewish state after their landmark deal to establish diplomatic ties.

The United Arab Emirates and Israel are expected to sign the US-brokered accord, Israel's first with a Gulf nation and only its third with an Arab state, at the White House in coming weeks.

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and White House advisor, led the delegation, which arrived in the Emirati capital Monday on the first ever commercial flight from Tel Aviv.

The US is on a diplomacy drive to push more Arab nations to strike deals with Israel. Although none have yet announced such moves, Kushner said he hoped another would emerge soon.

"Let’s hope it’s months" as opposed to years, he said when asked by the Emirati official news agency WAM when he expected a breakthrough, adding it was "logical" that all 22 Arab states could one day follow suit.

Before leaving on Tuesday, Kushner visited a UAE air base where the US operates F-35 stealth fighter jets coveted by Abu Dhabi - the thorniest issue in the establishment of ties, which was motivated in part by the need to combine forces against Iran.

Israel has denied reports that the deal hinges on the sale of US F-35s to the UAE. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he opposes a move that could blunt the Jewish state's strategic edge.

Kushner said Monday that the US could maintain that edge "while also advancing our military relationship with the United Arab Emirates" and that the issue would be discussed further in the coming weeks.

The two countries' national security advisors, Israel's Meir Ben-Shabbat and the UAE's Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, joined Kushner for the talks on cooperation between the two highly developed Middle East economies.

During the visit they discussed cooperation in investment, finance, health, space exploration, civil aviation, foreign policy and tourism and culture.

Israel and the UAE on Tuesday signed their first protocol in banking and finance, according to Netanyahu's office.

"We will soon announce additional agreements in aviation, tourism, trade and others," the prime minister in a statement.

Israel also said that the two sides on Tuesday held their first meeting on the "possibility of the mutual opening of embassies", and that direct commercial flights between the Jewish state and the UAE will likely take off by the end of the year.

"It wouldn't be a surprise if by the end of 2020 there will be direct flights between Israel and the UAE," foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat told the English website of Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned broadcaster.

Kushner headed to Bahrain on Tuesday, a week after a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as the US tries to seize on the momentum of the UAE's move.

He met with King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, who said stability in the region relied on Saudi Arabia, according to the official Bahrain News Agency - underlining expectations that it will not strike a deal with Israel before the region's heavyweight acts. 

Saudi Arabia has said it will not normalise relations until Israel agrees on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, in keeping with the decades-old stance of most Arab nations.

Under the accord, Israel agreed to suspend its planned annexations in the occupied West Bank - but Netanyahu has insisted the plans remain on the table.

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