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Israel signs with the Emirates its first free trade agreement with an Arab country

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After the normalization of their diplomatic relations in 2020, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed a “historic” free trade agreement on Tuesday, the first between the Jewish state and an Arab country. According to the Emirati-Israeli Business Council, trade between the two countries will exceed $2 billion in 2022.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which normalized diplomatic relations in 2020, signed a “historic” free trade agreement on Tuesday, the first of its kind between the Jewish state and an Arab country. This agreement abolishes customs barriers for “96% of the products” exchanged between the two parties, whose trade amounted to 900 million dollars (814.4 million euros) in 2021, according to official Israeli data.

“Israel and the Emirates have signed a historic free trade agreement, the first of this magnitude between Israel and an Arab country,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter. “Under the guidance of my friend Mohammed bin Zayed (Al-Nayane, ruler of the Emirates) and thanks to a lot of determination, this is the fastest signed free trade agreement in the history of Israel “, he continued.

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Four negotiating sessions

The Emirates and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel in 2020 under a series of agreements negotiated with the United States. Morocco followed suit, while Sudan also agreed to normalize ties with Israel, although it has yet to finalize the deal.

With a view to the free trade agreement signed on Tuesday, the talks began last November and were concluded in early April after four negotiating sessions. The last took place in Egypt between Naftali Bennett and Mohammed ben Zayed Al-Nahyan, then crown prince then became head of state in mid-May after the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Khalifa ben Zayed Al-Nahyan.

An “unprecedented success”

“Emirati-Israeli trade will exceed two billion dollars in 2022 and will reach around five billion dollars in five years, supported by collaboration in the renewable energy, consumer goods, tourism and life sciences sectors,” said Dorian Barak, chairman of the Emirati-Israeli Business Council, in a statement. “Dubai is fast becoming a hub for Israeli companies that see South Asia, the Middle East and the Far East as markets,” he added. According to him, almost a thousand Israeli companies will have ties with the Emirates by the end of the year.

For the Ambassador of the Emirates to Israel, Mohamed Al-Khaja, the signing of this agreement is an “unprecedented achievement”. “Businesses in both countries will benefit from faster access to markets and lower tariffs as our nations work together to increase trade, create jobs…and strengthen cooperation,” he wrote on Twitter.

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Amid tensions in Israel

The signing of the agreement comes two days after the “March of the Flags”, a parade in the Old City of Jerusalem attended by thousands of Israelis to commemorate the conquest of the eastern part of the city in 1967 and whose annexation has never been recognized by the international community. The march took place against a backdrop of tensions between security forces, Israeli demonstrators and Palestinians, who consider this annual procession a provocation.

About 2,600 non-Muslims, tourists and Israelis, visited the Esplanade of the Mosques, one of the holiest sites in Islam, on Sunday, a number much higher than usual. The Emirates “strongly condemned” this “assault” on Monday.

The free trade agreement was also signed nearly three weeks after Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed on May 11 during an Israeli operation in the occupied West Bank. According to the Palestinian prosecutor, she was killed by an Israeli soldier. An Israeli army investigation finds it impossible to determine whether she was killed by a Palestinian or an Israeli soldier. The Emirates called for an “impartial, independent and transparent investigation”.

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