Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev has travelled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to accompany Israel’s judo team at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2018 as regional Arab countries are dramatically warming their relations with the Tel Aviv regime after reports of secret contacts.
Regev arrived in Abu Dhabi on Friday morning, and she is scheduled to participate in the opening ceremony of the international event at the Emirati capital’s Zayed Sports City tomorrow, Palestinian Arabic-language Ma’an news agency reported.
Her visit to the UAE marks the first of its kind by an Israeli minister to a Persian Gulf littoral state.
Israeli athletes, for the first time, will be allowed to compete under the Tel Aviv regime’s flag and to hear their Hatikvah anthem played.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam 2018 will kick off on October 27, and will run through October 29. A total of 348 male and female judo practitioners from 62 countries will be vying for best honors during the high-status tournament.
Last year, the United Arab Emirates' top judo official apologized to his Israeli counterpart after Emirati judokas refused to shake hands with their Israeli opponents at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament.
Mohammad bin Thaloub al-Darei, the president of the UAE’s Judo Federation, and Aref al-Awani, the general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, “apologized because of the UAE athletes’ not shaking hands with the Israel athletes,” said International Judo Federation (IJF) President Marius Vizer.
They “also congratulated the Israel team for their success here,” Vizer said of the three-day event, which ended on October 28, 2017.
A day earlier, UAE's Rashad Almashjari had refused to shake hands with Israeli Tohar Butbul in the first round of the men’s lightweight category (66-73 kg). Butbul managed to claim the bronze medal.
Israel’s i24NEWS television news network, citing an unnamed official source, reported on July 5 that a military delegation from the UAE had apparently visited the Israeli-occupied territories for talks with the Tel Aviv regime’s air force on the “performance” of advanced US-made F-35 stealth fighter jets.
The report added that an American delegation was also present at the meeting, without providing any information on the date.
Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi have no diplomatic ties and the UAE does not recognize Israel but the two sides have increased backchannel cooperation in recent years.
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