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Israel cancels participation in UAE defense exhibition, citing air travel curbs

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Photograph Photograph: Emirates and Israeli flags fly with Israeli and US delegates arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 31 August 2020. REUTERS / Christopher Pike

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has canceled its planned participation in a major defense exhibition in the UAE next week due to COVID-19 air travel curbs, Israeli officials said on Monday.

Dozens of Israeli defense firms will attend the IDEX conference in Abu Dhabi from February 21-25 – the first for the two countries, which last September established formal relations after closing the queue amid their shared concerns about Iran. .

But officials from the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Regional Cooperation said the plan had been canceled. They cited Israel’s January 26 international air travel ban, which is still in effect as it tries to reverse an increase in COVID-19 climbing.

A Defense Ministry spokeswoman said she asked for special permits for firms to fly to the UAE capital, but was denied by an authorization panel of the Ministry of Regional Cooperation.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Regional Co-operation said the request had to be rejected, despite the desire to advance defense activity and given the need to make decisions without prejudice.

The business newspaper Globes quoted an unidentified senior representative of an Israeli defense firm as saying the cancellation would indicate major contract losses for competitors.

The Emirates hosts were extremely friendly and opened the red carpet. We had to be in the focus of the exhibition, with some products and exhibitions of the highest level, the representative was quoted as saying. All this, for nothing?

Israel and the United Arab Emirates, as part of their US-backed rapprochement, had proposed defense and military cooperation.

But the planned exchanges of defense delegations have not yet taken place – a by-product, Israeli sources said, of the coalition squabble between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz as they prepare to run in the March vote.

Reporting by Dan Williams,; Edited by Jeffrey Heller and Ed Osmond

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