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Israel signs free trade deal with UAE, first in Arab world

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Israel signed a free trade deal with the UAE on Tuesday, its first major trade agreement with an Arab government, and a measure to stimulate trade between the two countries in the Middle East.

The agreement was signed in Dubai after months of talks.

“Done,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek said on Twitter, replying to another tweet he posted earlier saying “the UAE and Israel will sign FTA in the next hour”.

The UAE ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja, said the deal was an “unprecedented accomplishment”. “Businesses in both countries will enjoy faster market access and reduced tariffs as our countries work together to increase trade, create jobs, promote new skills, and deepen collaboration,” he said.

“The domestic market doesn’t represent the entirety of the opportunity. The opportunity is setting up in Dubai, as many companies have, to target the broader region,” Barak told Reuters by phone.

Prior to the signing, the Israeli Ministry of Economy had declared that the agreement would eliminate tariffs on food, agriculture, cosmetics, medical supplies, and medicines.

“Together we will remove barriers and promote global trade and new technologies, which will provide a strong foundation for our shared journey, contribute to the well-being of citizens, and facilitate business,” Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry Orna Barbivai stated on Monday.

It is signed at a time when Israeli-Palestinian violence has been intensifying.

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The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates on Monday denounced the assault of the Al Aqsa compound in Jerusalem by “extremist settlers under the protection of the Israeli forces”.

In its written statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also called on the “Israeli authorities to take responsibility for reducing the escalation and stopping all attacks and practices which lead to the continuation of tensions while stressing the need to exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid further instability.”

On the same day, the invited media were informed that they could not attend the signing. No reason was given for the abrupt change.

Al Aqsa is the third sacred place of Islam and is venerated in Judaism as the Temple Mount- a remnant of both old temples of their faith.

Israel’s Barbivai told Israeli radio on Tuesday that she had heard nothing extraordinary about Al Aqsa’s violence to date during her visit to the United Arab Emirates.

For the oil-rich UAE, the agreement with Israel is its second bilateral free trade agreement following the signing of a similar agreement with India in February. It is in bilateral trade talks with a number of other nations, including Indonesia and South Korea.

The United Arab Emirates is actively pursuing these agreements with the aim of strengthening its economy and its status as a major business center following the shocks it experienced following the coronavirus pandemic.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates formed ties in September 2020 through an agreement negotiated by the United States that broke with decades of Arab policy which had called for a Palestinian state before the ties with Israel.

In addition, Bahrain and Morocco recognized Israel in the same year.

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