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June 25, 2020 3:06 pm

Israel and UAE to Cooperate in Fight Against Coronavirus

avatar by Algemeiner Staff and Agencies

An Etihad Airways plane is seen on the tarmac after landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, June 9, 2020. Photo: Israel Airport Authority / Handout via Reuters.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates will cooperate in the fight against the coronavirus, the two countries said on Thursday, a possible boost to Israeli efforts to normalize relations with Gulf Arab countries.

Two private companies from the United Arab Emirates and two Israeli companies will work together on medical projects, including those to combat the new coronavirus, the UAE’s state-run news agency WAM said.

The cooperation comes at a time of strong Arab opposition to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Israel has no diplomatic relations with Arab countries in the Gulf, but common concerns about Iran’s regional influence have led to a limited thaw in behind-the-scenes ties.

“This scientific and medical partnership overcomes historical and political challenges in the region,” an Arabic statement from WAM said, adding that the priority was humanitarian action and constructive cooperation to safeguard people’s health.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said earlier on Thursday that a formal announcement about the partnership was imminent.

Addressing a military ceremony in southern Israel, Netanyahu stated, “Our ability to act against the corona pandemic could also serve the entire region, and is also creating for us the opportunity for open cooperation, which we have hitherto not had, with certain countries in the region.”

“This cooperation will be in research and development, and technology, fields which could improve the health security of the entire region,” he added. “This is the result of continuous and intensive contacts over the past few months. It will be a blessing for many in our region.”

Last week, the UAE’s minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said it could work with Israel on some areas, including the battle against the coronavirus and on technology, despite political differences.

In May, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad made the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel, carrying coronavirus-related aid for Palestinians.

Speaking to a conference of the American Jewish Committee advocacy group on June 16, Gargash said Israel could not expect to normalize relations with the Arab world if it annexed West Bank land. He also said cooperation with Israel on the pandemic would not affect the UAE’s opposition to annexation.

Israel is due on July 1 to begin a cabinet debate on extending sovereignty to West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.

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