Israeli Delegation Visits UAE for International Conference
Energy Minister Silvan Shalom attended a meeting Saturday of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has no diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
It is the first time Israel has sent a minister to a meeting of IRENA since its foundation in 2009.
"Shalom is representing Israel, which is taking part in the meeting like all the other member states of this international agency," a member of the Israeli delegation told AFP. He declined to comment on whether Shalom hoped to hold any contacts on the sidelines with Gulf Arab officials.
During its two-day meeting, the IRENA general assembly is to discuss a draft roadmap for achieving a 36 percent share for renewables in the world energy mix by 2030.
IRENA Director General Adnan Amin told delegates from 66 countries and representatives from 120 regional and international organizations that "technology already exists to double the share of renewables by 2030 and even surpass it, and ... the transition can be cost neutral."
"Compared to energy systems based on fossil fuel, renewable energy... is better for our health, creates more jobs and provides an effective route to reducing carbon emission - a goal that becomes increasingly urgent by the day," he added.
Israel has quietly been seeking the alliance of Gulf monarchies, which like the Jewish state are concerned over Iran's rising regional power.
In May, Haaretz revealed the Jewish state had allocated a budget for a diplomatic mission in one of the Gulf states, without specifying which.
The UAE hosted an Israeli delegation for the first time in 2003 for a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. But, unlike fellow Gulf states Oman and Qatar, it has never hosted an Israeli trade office. Both missions have since been closed - in Oman in 2000, and the Qatar one in 2009.
Israel's relations with the UAE have been clouded by the January 2010 death in a Dubai hotel of Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in what investigators believe was an assassination carried out by Israel's Mossad spy agency. Those allegations have never been proven or acknowledged, however.
The Gulf Arab states have conditioned any normalization of relations with Israel on its acceptance of 2002 peace plan drafted by Saudi Arabia for peace with the Palestinian Authority.
Recent reports in Iran indicated that Israel has been getting closer to Saudi Arabia, with one claiming that a Saudi Arabian delegation flew to Israel in December for meetings with high-ranking Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
A recent report in the British Sunday Times claimed that Israel and Saudi Arabia may team up to fight Iran if talks between Iran and the West fail to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia later denied the report, clarifying it "has no relations or contacts with Israel of any kind or at any level."
The visit also follows news reports in December that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been looking to strengthen ties with the Gulf state, as tensions heat up over Iran's nuclear program.