Israel soon to open Abu Dhabi office for renewable energy
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel will soon open an office at a renewable energy agency in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates — even though the two nations have no diplomatic relations, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday.
According to the spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, the office will be accredited to IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency. He said it will open soon but would not elaborate further.
Since 2009, IRENA has set up a base in Masdar City, a government-backed clean energy campus just outside of the capital, Abu Dhabi.
The UAE, like much of the Arab world, does not have diplomatic ties with Israel over its occupation of lands Palestinians want for a future, independent state. Israeli passport holders are barred from entering the UAE, a federation of seven emirates, though the government allows Israeli athletes and others to enter the country from time to time for competitions and events.
Also incensing UAE authorities was the 2010 assassination in a Dubai hotel room of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior operative in the Islamic militant group Hamas. Local police there said it was carried out by Israel and the operation is widely attributed to its Mossad spy agency. Israel has never confirmed or denied involvement.
However, IRENA has been part of a rapprochement between Israel and the Emirates before. In 2010, then-Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau attended an IRENA conference in Abu Dhabi on behalf of his country, becoming the first Cabinet-level official to visit the Emirates.
Masdar officials referred questions to IRENA and the Emirates' Foreign Affairs Ministry. Officials with IRENA and the Emirati government could not be immediately reached for comment Friday, the first day of the country's weekend.
Israel's Haaretz newspaper first reported the opening of the Israeli office earlier on Friday. The paper said that Dore Gold, director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, visited Abu Dhabi on Tuesday where he attended an IRENA meeting and met with officials to finalize details of the mission's opening.
If opened, the Israel office in Abu Dhabi likely would be its only official outpost on the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar at one point allowed an Israeli trade office to operate there — a rarity in the Arab world — before ordering it closed following a 2008 Israeli conflict with Hamas.
International Renewable Energy Agency: www.irena.org
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.