United Arab Emirates: Israeli Mission in Abu Dhabi Not a Sign of Changed Attitude Toward Israel

UAE foreign ministry spokesperson says new mission to be accredited to International Renewable Energy Agency and activities to be limited to issues relating to agency-related contacts.

People walk in Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, which hosts the International Renewable Energy Association Agency (IRENA), October 7, 2015.
AFP

The United Arab Emirates' Ministry of Foreign Affairs published on Friday a message stressing that the opening of a new Israeli diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi does not represent a change in policy regarding U.A.E.-Israeli relations.

The planned new legation, which will deal with relations with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), was first exposed in Haaretz.

Maryam Al Falasi, director of communications in the U.A.E. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, clarified in a statement that the new mission would be accredited to IRENA and its activities will be solely limited to issues relating to contacts with the UN agency.

"The functions of missions accredited to IRENA, are limited to affairs related to their communications and dealings with the Agency. They do not, under any circumstances, cover any other activities and do not involve any obligation upon the host country with regards to its diplomatic relations or any other relations," she clarified.

As of July 2015, the agency had 145 member states and 29 other countries in the process of joining. None of these countries has a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi accredited solely to IRENA. Countries that maintain an embassy in Abu Dhabi are represented in the organization by their ambassador or a subordinate diplomat. In the case of countries with no embassy in Abu Dhabi, their delegate to IRENA is a not-resident diplomat who pays a working visit to the U.A.E. every few months.

On its website, IRENA defines itself, among other things, as an "intergovernmental organization that serves as a platform for international cooperation," which supports its members' transition to sustainable energy.

A senior official in Jerusalem said that Israel will be the only country with a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi that is accredited solely to IRENA. Israel decided on this course, he said, because it allowed for an official, open presence in the U.A.E. for the first time ever.

The official also said that diplomat Rami Hatan has been appointed to head the Israeli legation, and will depart for Abu Dhabi in the near future. The official added that office space for the new mission has already been found and that it is undergoing final preparations before the formal opening.

Dr. Dore Gold, director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, visited Abu Dhabi on Tuesday to participate in the biannual meeting of IRENA’s Council. The meeting was to discuss the future activities and budgetary issues pertaining to the organization's members, but the main purpose of the trip was to finalize the opening of the mission.

Discussions about an official Israeli presence in Abu Dhabi have been conducted in great secrecy for several years now. In fact, this idea was what prompted Israel, at the conference that founded IRENA in January 2009, to unexpectedly support the U.A.E. instead of Germany as the world headquarters of the organization.