UAE, Israel negotiations on CEPA progressing as scheduled: Envoy - GulfToday

UAE, Israel negotiations on CEPA progressing as scheduled: Envoy


Amir Hayek speaks during an interview in Abu Dhabi. WAM

Israel-UAE negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) are progressing as scheduled, and it will be signed within the nine-month timeframe set by the foreign ministers of the two countries in June 2021, Israel’s ambassador to the UAE told Emirates News Agency (WAM).

“I am very lucky to be the first Israeli ambassador here. For me, the sky is the limit regarding the potential of bilateral relations. In order to work and to improve bilateral] trade figures, we need the CEPA,” said Amir Hayek, who took charge as the first Israeli ambassador to the UAE last week, in his first media interview.

Israel opened its embassy in Abu Dhabi in June this year, headed by Eitan Naeh, who held the rank of Head of Mission. Naeh had been appointed in September as his country’s ambassador to Bahrain.

In an interview at the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi, Hayek said Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Yair Lapid, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, in their meeting in Abu Dhabi on 30th June had set a nine-month timeframe to sign the CEPA.

A joint statement issued after the meeting said the two ministers signed an Agreement on Economic and Trade Cooperation. Both sides expressed that they are looking forward to signing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, and they have commenced discussions on this matter, added the statement.

Hayek revealed that in a conversation with the Israeli Minister of Economy, Orna Barbivai, the latter expressed her commitment to the timeframe to sign the CEPA.

 “We are pushing, and we will finish it on time; I can assure you.”

Hayek never had the chance to visit the UAE in the past but felt at home after arriving here a week ago. “What I see is an amazing, beautiful, smart, warm, and fascinating country! We have close relations between both countries.” As a business leader, Hayek has worked as CEO of major Israeli companies, besides holding several senior positions at the Israeli government.

“I got a lot from my country. I got an education. I held senior positions in the Israeli government and outside the government. Now it’s my turn to give back. This is why I’m here; to be a part of what has been built between the leaders of our countries,” he explained.

Reinstated visa exemption, Expo 2020 Dubai to boost tourism Israel has reinstated visa-free travel for Emiratis as of 10th October, which was put on hold due to COVID-induced travel restrictions, the envoy said. As more than a quarter million Israeli tourists have already visited the UAE since the signing of Abraham Accords, the visa exemption and Expo 2020 Dubai will further increase this number, he said.

“First of all Expo is happening for the first time in the region. Many Israelis are coming here to visit Expo. This is a fascinating country and you have no other choice but to fall in love with it.” He explained that the global event will bring people together, drive business and enhance bilateral relations across the region and the world.

Cooperation in international arena When asked about the potential UAE-Israel cooperation on international issues of mutual concern, the envoy said, “You can put a list of 100 topics that we can cooperate in. As a friendly country, we will talk with you and go forward with you anywhere. We are your friends and this is what’s important. So, I can give you a list of 100 topics. But by next week, it will grow to include 200 topics, and a week later, 400,” he said, with an optimistic smile. Everyone favours Abraham Accords in Israel “We don’t have any opposition in Israel to the Abraham Accords and to the relations between Israel and the UAE. Everyone is in favour from right to left. When our high level officials visit the UAE, we are turning them into ambassadors for UAE-Israel relations.

“This is one of our secrets. How to bring people and to make them supporters of the UAE and supporters of the UAE-Israel relations. This is our aim,” he stressed.

The ambassador noted that four Israeli ministers and two deputy ministers visited the UAE last week. “Four of them came to this region for the first time. They are pushing us to do more.” Separately, the largest Israeli business mission to Abu Dhabi has concluded a two-day visit to the emirate, as part of the wider Beyond Business 2 delegation to the UAE hosted by Israel Export Institute (IEI) and Bank Hapoalim, in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO).

From 17th-18th October, 250 business people and entrepreneurs from Israel toured the UAE capital and met senior stakeholders from across the innovation ecosystem. The commercial engagement showcased Abu Dhabi’s vast market potential and capabilities as a springboard for Israeli businesses to reach the wider region.

Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), said, “Abu Dhabi and Israel are aligned on using innovation to advance the region and finding opportunities to share ideas and work together towards this common goal. Over the last two days, we have witnessed a determination to further cooperation between our two markets. Across innovation-focused sectors such as financial services, energy and healthcare, Abu Dhabi has the resources, infrastructure and opportunities to support the ambition of Israeli companies looking to grow in the region and beyond.”  He continued, “ADIO has been instrumental in connecting the two markets since the Abraham Accords were signed. Through ADIO’s office in Israel, we are doubling down on support for Israeli companies, acting as a bridge to facilitate mutually beneficial opportunities.”

 The visit commenced with a business forum attended by distinguished government and industry leaders from Abu Dhabi and Israel. Speakers included Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade; Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa, Chairman of ADDED; Abdullah M. Al Mazrui, Chairman of the UAE Chambers; Ruben Krupik, Chairman of Bank Hapoalim; Adiv Baruch, Chair of IEI; and Amir Hayek, Israel’s Ambassador to the UAE.


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