Telephone service between U.A.E. and Israel begins after normalization of ties

Foreign ministers from Israel and the United Arab Emirates have held their first publicly acknowledged call after the Gulf state opened telephone lines to Israel as part of a normalization of ties.

Previously blocked Israeli news websites also newly available in United Arab Emirates

Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a deal on Thursday that will lead to a full normalization of diplomatic relations. (Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters, Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The U.A.E. and Israeli foreign ministers held their first publicly acknowledged call on Sunday after the Gulf state opened telephone lines to Israel as part of a normalization of ties.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday announced their U.S.-sponsored rapprochement, which promised a boom in bilateral trade but angered Palestinians and anti-Israel powers, such as Iran.

The foreign ministers of both countries spoke by phone to inaugurate the newly opened lines. Israel's Gabi Ashkenazi said he and his U.A.E. counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed agreed during the call "to meet soon."

Israel's Communications Ministry said U.A.E. telecom providers on Saturday unblocked calls to numbers with Israel's +972 country code.

Reuters made several calls from the U.A.E. to Israel on Sunday and Israeli news websites that previously were blocked in the U.A.E. could also be seen using U.A.E. internet connections.

Palestinians take part in a protest on Thursday against the United Arab Emirates' deal with Israel to normalize relations, in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (Raneen Sawafta/Reuters)

"I congratulate the United Arab Emirates on the unblocking," Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said on Twitter.

"Many economic opportunities will now open up, and these trust-building steps are important for advancing the countries' interests."

The U.A.E.'s Telecoms Regulatory Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did the U.A.E.'s two main telecoms operators, Du and Etisalat.

The U.A.E.-Israel agreement says Israeli and U.A.E. delegations will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements covering sectors including investment, tourism and direct flights and the opening of reciprocal embassies.

On Saturday, the first business deal was signed since the accord. Emirati APEX National Investment company and Israel's Tera Group will co-operate on research and development related to COVID-19, including a testing device.

The U.A.E. foreign ministry in a statement to Reuters said the country expects an agreement on reciprocal visas, saying more details will be announced in due course.

Currently Israelis wishing to visit the U.A.E., and Emiratis wanting to visit Israel, can get special visas assessed on a case-by-case basis by the inviting government, spokespeople for the U.A.E. Foreign Ministry and Israel's Interior Ministry said.

Numerous Israeli citizens and officials have visited the U.A.E. for sporting events and international conferences. Israel's culture and sports minister in October 2018 came to watch Israelis compete in an international judo tournament in Abu Dhabi.

Israel is a confirmed participant at the Expo 2020 Dubai world fair, which has been postponed to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.