In a latest advancement of Israel-UAE normalization, the countries' ambassadors to the United Nations on Wednesday met in Geneva, one of the more diplomatically contentious sites for Israel, because it is the seat of the UN Human Rights Council.
That meeting came a day after Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi held a high profile meeting with his UAE counterpart in Berlin.
The conversation in Geneva was “very friendly,” Israel’s Ambassador, Meirav Eilon Shahar told The Jerusalem Post. The meeting took place at the UAE mission offices and she said that she had invited with her counterpart, Obaid Salem Al Zaabi to visit Israel.
The meeting was well publicized, with the UAE providing a photographer to capture the historic moment, Shahar said. The overall atmosphere was very refreshing,” she added.
As a sign of the friendly diplomatic atmosphere, the UAE mission then published the photograph of Shahar on Twitter.
“We discussed changes in the Middle East and potential collaborations in the United Nations and specialized agencies in Geneva,” Shahar wrote, when she similarly tweeted the photograph.
Al Zaabi was “very optimistic about the changes” that will “mutually benefit both countries,” she said.
“He also spoke of how we come from similar standing points,” and that it helped that she had already traveled to the UAE and knew about his country, Shahar said.
With an eye to advancing ties, they discussed potential joint initiatives, such as at the World Health Organization that is headquartered in Geneva and at which both countries are board members.
“It might be easier to start with professional agencies than political ones,” Shahar said.
The two ambassadors also touched on the thornier issues such as the UNHRC, that annually passes more resolutions against Israel than any other country. The body is mandated to debate alleged Israeli international human rights abuses at every session, under what is known as Agenda Item 7. Israel has worked to highlight that bias and to eliminate that agenda item and has argued that criticism regarding human rights should be dealt with under Agenda Item 4, alongside allegations against other countries.
Increasingly, countries have abstained from the debate although last week, a session comprising mostly Arab countries including Egypt and Jordan, that have long-standing peace treaties with Israel, and the UAE and Bahrain, attacked Israel.
Separately, Israel’s Minister for Regional Cooperation, Ofir Akunis held a Zoom meeting with his UAE counterpart, Reem Al Hashimi. They discussed cooperation in water, agriculture, technology, cyber security and tourism.
They “agreed to meet soon with the aim of tightening cooperation between their ministries and setting up work teams to promote joint ventures for the two countries alongside other countries in the Mediterranean and Africa.
The Ministers also discussed promoting Dubai’s Expo 2021 at which Israel will also be an exhibitor.