UAE denies IRENA representation reflects Israel policy change

Friday 11/12/2015
Masdar Institute campus, part of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi

LONDON - The United Arab Emirates dismissed reports that its hosting Israel’s mission to the International Re­newable Energy Agency (IRENA) reflected a change of policy towards the Jewish state.
Despite speculation, especially in Israeli media, describing the de­cision as a harbinger of a thaw in relations between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which the UAE is a member, there have been no indications the pres­ence in Abu Dhabi of an Israeli rep­resentative to IRENA will mean much beyond accreditation to the international agency.
UAE officials point out that the Israeli representative will only be accredited to IRENA and not to the Emirati government.
“Any agreement between IRENA and Israel does not represent a change in the position of the UAE or its relations with Israel,” Direc­tor of Communications at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maryam al-Falasi said in statements reported by the Emirati official news agency WAM.
“IRENA is an international, in­dependent agency that works ac­cording to the laws, regulations and norms that govern the work of such organisations,” she said.
The presence of Israeli repre­sentatives within IRENA does not involve obligation on the host coun­try with regards to its diplomatic re­lations or any other relations, added Falasi.
Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokes­man for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, also denied that the accreditation of an Israeli representation to IRENA had any implications in terms of re­lations between UAE and Israel.
Speaking on Al Jazeera television, Nahshon stressed the Israeli repre­sentative will be accredited to IRE­NA, not the UAE Foreign Ministry.
“We only have an accredited dip­lomat to represent Israel at IRENA, which is an international organisa­tion that happened to be based in Abu Dhabi,” he said, adding that “the representative will be a resi­dent diplomat in Abu Dhabi with IRENA only”.
According to a November 27th statement issued by IRENA, under the Headquarters Agreement, the UAE, as host country, is responsi­ble for the provision of facilities and services that ensure the proper functioning of the agency’s work.
The statement said: “The Head­quarters Agreement grants all IRE­NA members the right to establish permanent missions accredited to the agency, to strengthen the global platform it is creating for coopera­tion in the field of renewable energy.
“Israel is a member of the agency. Under the agreement, the work of member missions is confined to en­gagement with the agency in imple­mentation of its work programme focused on the uptake of renewable energy and bears no implication on the relation between the member of IRENA and the host country.”
Israel is the only country with a representative in the UAE solely ac­credited to IRENA. Its status is being compared to Iran’s presence in the New York-based United Nations de­spite the country’s lack of diplomat­ic relations with the United States.
In the Arab world, Israel only has embassies in Egypt and Jordan based on peace treaties signed in 1979 and 1994, respectively. The UAE and the rest of the Arab world do not formally recognise the state of Israel and often vehemently criti­cise Israel’s occupation of Palestin­ian territories.
In January 2014, the UAE faced controversy over the participation of Israeli minister Silvan Shalom in the annual IRENA General Assem­bly in Abu Dhabi. UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gar­gash rejected the criticism.
“The UAE has been able, through a delicate balance, to differenti­ate between Israel’s membership in IRENA and the normalisation of bilateral ties, which Israel has been seeking,” he tweeted. “[The UAE] will not rush into a free normalisa­tion with Israel, like other countries did,” he said.
Emirati official sources say Abu Dhabi is not interested in normali­sation with Israel. Gulf analysts say GCC countries believe they have nothing to gain from formal ties with Israel, as that would only play into the hands of Iran.
The coolness of Gulf reactions contrasts with Israel’s seeming ea­gerness to normalise relations. Is­raeli Prime Minister Binyamin Ne­tanyahu told the United Nations in September: “The dangers of nucle­ar-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbours to rec­ognise, finally recognise, that Israel is not their enemy. And this affords us the opportunity to overcome the historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes.”
Tensions between the UAE and Israel escalated in 2010 after it was revealed that members of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service had as­sassinated a Hamas official in Dubai hotel.
Qatar, which used to host an Is­raeli trade office in Doha, closed that representation following Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip. Oman had shut its Israeli trade office in 2000.