Fearing Further Political Deadlock, Israel to Ratify Delayed Pacts With Asian Countries

Foreign Ministry will approve agreements with India, Nepal and Thailand. Free trade zone deals with China, South Korea and Vietnam to be signed in coming months

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Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi at the Knesset in Jerusalem, 2019.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi at the Knesset in Jerusalem, 2019. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Israel's Foreign Minister Gaby Ashkenazi is expected on Thursday to sign a list of agreements with Asian nations that had been delayed last year due to the political deadlock.

The agreements will be approved amid fears that if the government's current dispute over the budget continues, another election will be held and these deals would be postponed again. Such agreements were difficult to sign while a transitional government was in charge for most of 2019, amid three election campaigns.

At a meeting with 11 ambassadors from Asian countries, Ashkenazi is expected to sign a series of agreements, including a water pact with the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and a deal for collaboration on the production of a Bollywood movie in Israel. Israel has also been negotiating a free trade zone deal with India for a limited list of goods.

Also on Thursday, an agreement will be signed on the subject of aviation security with Thailand, and regarding the visa requirement for Nepalese diplomats.

In the coming weeks, airline pacts are expected to be signed with Vietnam and Sri Lanka, along with a health cooperation agreement with India. In the coming months, the ministry is expected to sign a free trade zone deal with South Korea and later with Vietnam and China.

The accord with South Korea was long delayed because of Israeli opposition to demands that it omit products made in West Bank settlements. As a compromise, it was decided that each side would submit its own addendum to the deal specifying its views on the issue.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said that he hopes the normalization deal that Israel signed with the United Arab Emirates last week will bring more opportunities for tripartite treaties between Israel, Asian countries and Gulf states. 

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