ABU DHABI: A handout image yesterday shows representatives from the Emirati company APEX National Investment and the Israeli TeraGroup signing an agreement to develop research on the novel coronavirus. The agreement is the first between firms from the two countries since the announcement a normalization of relations. – AFP

KUWAIT/DUBAI: Kuwait’s position towards Israel is unchanged after its accord with the United Arab Emirates and it will be the last country to normalize relations, Al-Qabas newspaper reported yesterday citing Kuwaiti government sources. Israel and the UAE announced an agreement on Thursday that will lead to a full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two states, making the UAE the only third Arab state to do so.

A Kuwait foreign ministry official was not immediately available to comment. “The Kuwaiti position is consistent with its decades-old foreign policy approach in support of the Palestinian cause, as it is the premier Arab issue, and only accepting a solution if it is what the Palestinians accept,” Al-Qabas said. Palestinians denounced the Israel-UAE deal, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar have remained silent. Fellow Gulf nations Oman and Bahrain praised the deal.

Telephone lines between the UAE and Israel were open yesterday, calls made by Reuters reporters showed. It was not clear when exactly a block on telephone calls made from the UAE to Israel was lifted, but historically calls were not possible. More Israeli news websites that were previously blocked in the UAE were also now able to be viewed on UAE internet connections yesterday.

The UAE’s Telecoms Regulatory Authority did not immediately respond to a request to comment. An official in Israel’s Communication Ministry told Reuters that any previous block on calls between the two countries had come from the UAE side. “Now I understand that calls are going through,” the official said.

Meanwhile, firms from the UAE and Israel have signed an agreement to jointly develop research and studies on the novel coronavirus, the UAE’s state WAM agency reported. The business deal comes days after a surprise political agreement between the UAE and Israel to normalize relations, a historic shift which will make the Gulf state only the third Arab country to establish full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

The UAE’s APEX National Investment and Israel’s TeraGroup signed the “strategic commercial agreement” late Saturday in Abu Dhabi, WAM said in a statement. “We are delighted with this cooperation with TeraGroup, which is considered the first business to inaugurate trade, economy and effective partnerships between the Emirati and Israeli business sectors,” APEX chairman Khalifa Yousef Khouri said.

APEX is an investment company with a particular focus on the healthcare sector. The deal would be “serving humanity by strengthening research and studies on the novel coronavirus,” Khouri added. The two companies hope to develop a rapid test for coronavirus. “We are thrilled with our agreement with APEX National Investment, and hope that we will achieve the objectives outlined in this agreement, which in turn will benefit everyone economically,” TeraGroup chairman Oren Sadiv said, according to WAM.

Last Thursday the UAE and Israel agreed the US-brokered deal to establish full diplomatic ties. Under that agreement, Israel pledged to suspend its planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, a concession welcomed by European and some pro-Western Arab governments as a boost for hopes of peace.

However, before the political deal, two Israeli defense companies last month signed an agreement with an Emirati company to collaborate on the development of a non-invasive coronavirus screening test. State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the country’s largest aerospace and defense firm, as well as the government’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, signed a memorandum of understanding with Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 in July. – Agencies