The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed plans to open a mission to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, following a visit to IRENA headquarters there last week led by Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold.

The announcement does not signal any change in the non-existent relationship between the two countries.

However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tells ISRAEL21c this will be the first Israeli mission located in a country with which Israel has no diplomatic ties, and the first time current Israeli citizens will go to live in the UAE.

“A delegation from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited the Headquarters and met with Mr. Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of the Agency on the sidelines of the 10th meeting of the Council of IRENA, which was held in Abu Dhabi on 24-25 November 2015,” according to an IRENA statement released on November 27.

Israeli government ministers previously attended IRENA conferences in Abu Dhabi in 2010 and 2014, and the idea of establishing a permanent Israeli mission at IRENA was announced following the 2014 visit.

The Jewish state’s mission to IRENA in Abu Dhabi will be manned by Israeli diplomat Rami Hatan, formerly director of the Foreign Ministry’s World Religions Department.

The ministry spokesman said that initially Hatan will go alone to the UAE, though others could join him depending on the volume of activity. The UAE ordinarily does not allow entry to Israeli passport-holders. Any Israeli citizen visiting or working in the UAE must have a passport from a country with diplomatic ties, although exceptions can be made.

“Rami is an accredited Israeli diplomat, and under the Vienna Convention [on Diplomatic Relations] the host country has to allow him free movement,” explained Nahshon.

International cooperation is key

As permanent host country for IRENA since October 2013, the UAE “is responsible for the provision of facilities and services that ensure the proper functioning of the agency’s work,” said Amin in a written statement on his meeting with Gold and the Israeli delegation. The UAE therefore “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,” Amin continued. “Under the agreement, the work of member missions is confined to engagement with the agency in implementation of its work program focused on the uptake of renewable energy, and bears no implication on the relation between the member of IRENA and the host country.”

He said that international cooperation to accelerate the global deployment of renewables is key to IRENA’s work.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. Photo courtesy of IRENA
IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. Photo courtesy of IRENA

Maryam al-Falasi, director of communications at the UAE Foreign Affairs Ministry, issued a statement saying: “Any agreement between IRENA and Israel does not represent any change in the position of the UAE or its relations with Israel.”

In a report in Gulf News, she reiterated that member countries’ IRENA missions in Abu Dhabi are “limited to affairs related to their communications and dealings with the agency. They do not, under any circumstances, cover any other activities and do not involve any obligation upon the host country with regards to its diplomatic relations or any other relations.”

Established in 2009, IRENA has 144 Members (143 states and the European Union) with more than 30 countries in accession. “IRENA is open to all states that share the goal to promote the widespread and increased adoption of renewable energy worldwide,” said the agency’s statement.

In January, Israel’s agency for international development cooperation, MASHAV, hosted the workshop “Renewable Energy Deployment in Sub Saharan African Cities” in cooperation with IRENA. The workshop showcased successful renewable energy deployment practices in Israel and was hailed by IRENA Regional Program Officer Safiatou Alzouma as a “very important capacity-building workshop for Sub Saharan African countries.”