UAE planning first official visit to Israel on September 22 - source

FILE PHOTO: Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat elbow bumps with an Emirati official as he makes his way to board the plane to leave Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Nir Elias//File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates is planning to make its first official visit to Israel on Sept. 22 to build up the countries’ agreement to normalise relations, a source familiar with the provisional itinerary said on Monday.

Israeli officials declined to comment and UAE officials did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The two countries announced on Aug. 13 they would normalise diplomatic relations in a U.S.-brokered deal that was hailed as a breakthrough by Washington and Israel but spurned by the Palestinians.

The UAE delegation’s trip to Israel, which has yet to be finalised, would come in reciprocation of a groundbreaking trip to Abu Dhabi last week by senior Israeli and U.S. envoys, the source told Reuters.

The source said the UAE was expected to finalise the trip after a date is announced for a ceremony, likely in Washington, where the countries’ leaders will sign their normalisation accord. That ceremony is likely to take place in mid-September, the source added.

The source declined to be identified by name or nationality due to the sensitivity of the evolving contacts.

The trip would be the first publicly acknowledged visit to Israel by an official delegation from the UAE.

Israel exchanged embassies with neighbours Egypt and Jordan under peace deals decades ago. But until the UAE accord, all other Arab states had demanded Israel first cede more land to the Palestinians.

An Israeli minister said on Monday annual trade between Israel and the UAE is expected to reach $4 billion.

Additional reporting by Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem and Aziz El Yaakoubi in Dubai; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Andrew Heavens