UAE can work with Israel, despite political differences, senior official says


DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates can work with Israel on some areas, including fighting the new coronavirus and on technology, while still having political differences with the state, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Addressing a conference of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), a leading Jewish advocacy group, minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said communication with Israel was important and would yield better results than other routes taken in the past.

His question and answer session, described as “historic” by the AJC, comes days after another senior official made a rare appeal to the Israeli public by having an article published in Hebrew in Israel’s leading newspaper, saying Israel cannot expect to normalise relations with the Arab world if it annexes land in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has no diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab countries, but common concerns over Iran’s regional influence have led to a limited thaw in ties. In May, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad made the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel, carrying coronavirus-related aid for the Palestinians.

“Can I have a political disagreement with Israel but at the same time try and bridge other areas of the relationship? I think I can and I think this is fundamentally where we are,” Gargash said.

He added that cooperation on the challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic does not affect the UAE’s opposition to the proposed annexation or other political issues.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall