Israelis will be able to start visiting the United Arab Emirates “in another few days,” the Foreign Ministry announced on Monday.
The statement said it had reached an agreement with its counterparts in the UAE, but didn’t specify exactly when Israelis will start being allowed into the country.
All Israeli citizens that have until now travelled to the country were either travelling on a foreign passport, or received a special exemption as part of a pre-authorized governmental or business delegation. The first flight carrying Israeli tourists arrived in Dubai on November 8, in a specially chartered plane by low-coast UAE company FlyDubai.
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The agreement in question is an interim arrangement under which Israeli airlines will be able to arrange electronic visas for all Israeli passengers on their flights. It will be in force until an official agreement on visa-free travel between the two countries takes effect in about a month.
The ministry’s statement said that Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi had spoken with his Emirati counterpart in an effort to get permission for Israelis to visit the UAE even before the official agreement takes effect.
On Monday, the Foreign Ministry sent an official letter to the Emirati Foreign Ministry approving the agreement on visa-free travel for tourists and businesspeople. The agreement is slated to take effect 30 days after both sides receive the other’s official letter of approval.
Close links between the two countries were touted as a major benefit when a normalization deal was signed earlier this year. Both countries hope the new deal will boost their tourist industries, heavily hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The deal between the UAE and Israel, dubbed the Abraham Accords and which Bahrain later joined, was only the third peace deal signed between Israel and an Arab nation. Israel has diplomatic ties with neighbors Egypt and Jordan, but relations are complex and often fraught with unresolved differences.
The UAE has said it anticipates a “warm” peace with Israel, and several business and academic cooperation agreements have already been signed. Critics say the Accords have left the issue of a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians unresolved.