Israeli PM makes 1st official trip to UAE

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 22, 2021. [Photo/Yossi Zeliger/JINI via Xinhua]

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday made his first official visit to the United Arab Emirates, in a bid to strengthen the recently-established bilateral ties.

"I am delighted to take off for a historic visit, the first of its kind, to the UAE," Bennett said in a video statement at the Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv ahead of his departure.

Bennett said he will meet the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday, and will also meet "dozens of other ministers and senior officials."

The visit, coming some 14 months after Israel and the UAE normalized ties, is "intended to deepen the cooperation between the countries in all areas," Bennett said.

He added that the ties are already "excellent and branching, and we must continue to nurture and strengthen them, and build the warm peace between the two peoples."

The visit comes amid Israeli diplomatic bids to halt the nuclear talks between world powers and Iran.

The trip also marks the first official visit of an Israeli prime minister to the Gulf country.

Israel and the UAE signed the so-called Abraham Accord, a U.S.-brokered normalization agreement, in September 2020.

In late June, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid flew to the UAE, in the first visit by a senior Israeli official, to open the first Israeli embassy in the Gulf state. About a month later, the UAE inaugurated its embassy in Israel.

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