Netanyahu shelves UAE trip following spat with Jordan

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a historic visit to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, citing a disagreement with Jordan over crossing its airspace.

The prime minister "was expected to visit the United Arab Emirates today," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

"However, his visit was postponed due to difficulties in coordinating his flight in Jordanian airspace."

The statement said that the overflight row "apparently stemmed" from the cancellation by Israel of a planned visit Wednesday by Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein to the Al-Aqsa mosque in annexed east Jerusalem.

The prince's visit was called off following "a dispute over security and safety arrangements at the site," the Israeli statement said.

There was no immediate comment from Amman on the spat.

The Israeli statement further said that Jordan had ultimately cleared Netanyahu's plane for travel.

But since that clearance "was received late, the prime minister and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed agreed to coordinate on another date for the prime minister's visit."

Israel and the UAE established ties last year in a diplomatic coup for Netanyahu brokered by his staunch ally, US president Donald Trump.

The deal made UAE only the third Arab state to establish relations with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan subsequently reached similar US-brokered agreements with Israel.

Netanyahu, in power since 2009, has sought to burnish his credentials as Israel's leading statesman as part of his re-election pitch ahead of March 23 polls and a UAE visit could have aided that effort.

Israeli media had earlier reported that Netanyahu's Abu Dhabi trip faced delays due to his wife Sarah being hospitalised with apendicitis.

Hadassah hospital confirmed to AFP that it had admitted Sarah Netanyahu, without providing further details.