Despite the Kuwaiti delegation's decision to boycott a renewable energy conference that Israelis are attending in Abu Dhabi, many other Arab countries remain among the participants, Energy, Water and National Infrastructures Minister Silvan Shalom said on Sunday morning.
Shalom is leading an Israeli delegation to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Fourth Assembly, held at the St. Regis Hotel on Saadiyat Island on Saturday and Sunday, as part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. Posting on his Facebook account on Sunday morning, Shalom revealed that although Kuwaitis were absent from the conference due to Israel's presence, Muslim states such as Iraq and Iran were participating. Shalom was slated to address the conference participants – from over 150 countries and 120 international organizations – during the day on Sunday.
The Kuwaiti Ministry of Electricity and Water told the Kuwait Times daily on Saturday that it would not attend the summit due to Israel's participation.
"The decision comes in line with Kuwait's commitment to boycott all forms of interaction with the Zionist regime," the ministry is quoted as saying.
By attending the IRENA conference, Shalom follows in the footsteps of then-energy and water minister Uzi Landau, who traveled to a similar Abu Dhabi conference on January 16, 2010, and became the first minister to visit the United Arab Emirates. Israeli is one of 123 member-states of IRENA, an intergovernmental organization focused on renewable energy development that is based in Abu Dhabi.
This is the first Israeli delegation visit to the UAE, with which Israel has no diplomatic ties, since the assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on January 19, 2010.
While Israel never confirmed or denied involvement in the killing, the Dubai police chief afterward forbade all Israelis from entering the country, even those holding foreign passports.
The Israeli delegation is able to attend the conference because the international organization is based on UAE soil, Shalom’s spokesman stressed.
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“If Israel is a full member of IRENA and that takes place in Abu Dhabi, it’s inconceivable that we wouldn’t be able to go to that assembly,” his spokesman said. “At the end of the day we are going there with Israeli passports.”
The delegation includes Hevel Eilot Regional Council Chairman Udi Gat, who will deliver a presentation, the spokesman said.
Gat, whose southern Arava Desert region has become a hub for renewable energy, said he plans to speak about “how from an idea you create a project” – how to integrate all of the complicated aspects of government and business that go into forging forward with renewable energy plans. In addition, he told the Post, he intends to explain how you can transform a municipality or a region through renewable energy projects.
“I think it will be interesting and I hope to meet people from all over the world,” he said. “I want to brand the [Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy] Conference that we have this December.”
A senior UAE official, responding to criticism of allowing Israel to attend the energy conference in the country, said that this did not signify any normalization of relations with the Jewish state.
Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of state for Foreign Affairs, wrote on Twitter, “The UAE has been able, through a delicate balance, to differentiate between Israel’s membership in Irena and the normalization of bilateral ties which Israel has been seeking,” according to a report by the Dubai-based Gulf News website.
The country will not be rushing to normalize relations, “like some countries did,” he said.
Gargash said that criticism is being “instigated by those who hold resentment and hostility towards the UAE.”
Sources confirmed Gargash’s statement and told Gulf News that Shalom’s visit does not represent any change in policy regarding the Middle East conflict.
Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.