Abu Dhabi, Asharq Al-Awsat- A UAE official denied to Asharq Al-Awsat that an Israeli Minister attending a conference on renewable energy held in Abu Dhabi yesterday means the beginning of diplomatic ties between the UAE and Israel. The source confirmed that the only reason that the Israeli Minister is attending the conference is due to the UAE’s obligation as host to the International Renewable Energy Agency [IRENA] headquarters. The third session of the IRENA Preparatory Commission began in Abu Dhabi yesterday, and all attention was on the attendance of Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, who is the first Israeli Minister to visit the UAE.
The Emirati source who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the Israeli Minister’s attendance of the conference does not under any circumstances mean that there is “any relationship…or indication of bilateral ties between the United Arab Emirates and any of those [countries] attending the conference” in reference to Israel. The UAE currently has no diplomatic ties with Israel.
According to the Emirati source, the IRENA organization has 139-member states “and the host country has no right to exclude any of these countries [from attending conferences].”
The UAE official also told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country, as host of the IRENA headquarters “has nothing to do with who attends IRENA conferences, and all members of the organization should be able to attend.” He clarified that this is one of the pre-requisites for any country wishing to host the headquarters of an international organization.
The UAE is one of three Gulf States – along with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – that has no direct diplomatic contact with Israel whatsoever.
Despite this, the Israeli Infrastructure Minister was present in Abu Dhabi yesterday, and this is not the first time that an Israeli official has visited the UAE. In October 2009, Israeli officials attended IRENA preparatory meetings, whilst Israeli official also attended IMF meetings held in Dubai in 2003.
In early 2009, Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer was refused a visa to Dubai to compete in the Sony Ericsson World Tennis Association [WTA] tour in Dubai. This led the WTA to say that it would reconsider Dubai’s membership to the WTA tour, especially as the Israeli tennis player has already previously competed in a tournament held in Qatar. Peer was the first Israeli tennis player to compete in tennis tournaments held in the Arab Gulf. The Dubai tour director said that the competition regulations do not allow the host country to prevent players from competing in tournaments.
Speaking during the opening session of the IRENA third preparatory session in Abu Dhabi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash said that “the UAE remains committed to using its unique geographical, political, and economic position not only to encourage the dynamic involvement of the developing world in the quest for renewable energy, but to also effectively contribute to the ongoing North – South dialogue on a wide range of developmental issues.”
Gargash added “The UAE firmly believes that IRENA will evolve into one of the most important international organizations of the 21st century and we are truly proud to be part of that journey.”
The UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs went on to say that “it is remarkable to think that in less than 12 months, we have IRENA membership increase from 75 to 139” after the Czech Republic joined the list of member-states less than a fortnight ago.
He also stressed that IRENA could have a positive effect on reality through teamwork and the ongoing contribution of member-states. He ended his address by saying that IRENA’s work so far “reflects the whole-hearted global endorsement of IRENA’s core aspiration to be the driving force behind a rapid transition towards the widespread and sustainable use of renewable energy around the world.”