First visit by Israeli minister to UAE

Uzi Landau attends Abu Dhabi renewable energy conference despite lack of diplomatic ties with UAE.

By RON FRIEDMAN
January 18, 2010 20:03
3 minute read.

 
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National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau returned Sunday from a weekend in the United Arab Emirates, where he attended the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) conference, a new international body based in Abu Dhabi.



Landau is the first Israeli minister to visit the small, oil-rich country. Israel and the UAE do not have diplomatic relations, but IRENA's activities are open to because it is a member state.



Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Landau said that he and the rest of the Israeli delegation were restricted to the hotel and the conference grounds, but that he saw the city while driving to and from the airport and he hoped that in the future, there would be a permanent Israeli representative in the city functioning as a liaison with IRENA.



"In order to break through the ice, you need to start with a crack. I think my visit may have been a first splinter," said Landau.



A small, lower-level Israeli delegation attended the previous IRENA conference in in October, and was received graciously.





IRENA was officially established on January 26, 2009. It aspires to become the main driving force for promoting a rapid transition towards the widespread use of renewable energy on a global scale. As of today, 138 states and the European Union have signed the Statute of the Agency. The weekend conference was the third session of the agency's preparatory commission.



In his speech before the agency's members, Landau called on the representatives of all the other countries to cooperate for a better future.



"Despite the special problems that each country experiences and despite the differences and disagreements that arise between the countries represented here, together, we arrived at an agreement regarding the existence of a global problem that affects and threatens all of our future," he said.



Landau offered to share 's experience in water technology and invited the participants to attend the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy International Conference, scheduled for mid-February.



"We in , during the last 60 years, have made the desert bloom. We have the willingness to share and contribute from our experience to those who share our problems…. The fact that we are here, in the heart of the Gulf, the source of fossil fuels and are talking about alternative energies, is proof that we are together, that we can, that it is in our power to create a new, greener reality for out children."



"The importance of the organization is great," said Landau in a phone interview. "There are plans, especially by the Europeans, to promote international actions through the agency. It will be an important junction for research, business and development of national systems."



Landau said that the organization's charter was not complete yet and that it was still early to talk about a permanent Israeli presence in the UAE, but he said that once everything was up and running there would need to be some sort of professional delegate to the agency and that with time, and depending on the activity required, it may grow to a team.



Landau said the UAE was committed to allowing Israelis to enter, despite the lack of diplomatic ties, because of the nature of the organization.



"They had to do it, since they committed themselves to making it possible for all member states, with or without relations, to participate in the agency's activities," said Landau.



An official with the UAE's Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press that "allowing an Israeli cabinet minister to participate in the agency's activities was part of obligations in hosting [the agency] in the UAE."



He added that 's participation in the international event would have no implications or indications for bilateral links between the UAE and any other party.



AP contributed to this report.

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