Middle EastPalestine

Israeli team races in UAE cycling tour amid thawing ties

An Israeli cycling team has raced in Dubai cycling park, taking part in the UAE Tour for the first time in the latest sign of thawing ties between the two sides.

The team said in a statement on Sunday that they were surprised by the warm reception they received in the United Arab Emirates, which have no diplomatic relations with Israel.

“The participation in this race by our Israeli team in a Middle Eastern nation is emblematic of how cycling can be a force for diplomatic openness and progress,” the statement read.

Like all Arab countries, except Jordan and Egypt, the UAE has no official relations with Israel.

But Arab states of Persian Gulf region have made a number of recent moves hinting at warmer ties with the Tel Aviv regime, with Israeli athletes and officials increasingly allowed in.

This comes as Israeli regime’s officials are apparently injecting more momentum into their efforts to bring out in the open their clandestine relations with a number of Arab countries, particularly the Persian Gulf Arab states.

In August last year, Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz said he was working toward “transparent normalization and signed agreements” with a number of Persian Gulf states as they do not shy away from disclosing their clandestine relations with Tel Aviv following years of secretive contacts.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in late November 2018 visited Oman, where he met with late Sultan Sayyid Qaboos at the Bait al-Barakah Royal Palace in the coastal city of Seeb near the capital Muscat.

In October 2018, Israel’s culture and sports minister Miri Regev had traveled to the UAE for the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament, where the regime’s anthem was played for the first time.

During the visit, she also toured Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque accompanied by Emirati officials.

A spokesman for the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas in December condemned attempts aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between some Arab countries and the Israeli regime, describing such behavior as “treason.”

Abdul-Latif al-Qanua said at the time that Netanyahu’s move to welcome Tel Aviv’s warming relations with Arab countries was “a reflection of how deep these ties have gone, and the level some Arab regimes have sunk to.”

He warned that the normalization of Arab states’ ties with the Israeli regime would harm the Palestinian cause.

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