Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has postponed his scheduled visit next week to Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, citing Israel’s coronavirus lockdown and the shuttering of Ben-Gurion International Airport, his office announced on Thursday.

“Despite the importance of the trip to Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to postpone the visit at this stage due to the closing of the skies,” said the statement.

The statement emphasized however that Netanyahu “very much appreciates the invitations of [Abu Dhabi] Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the historic peace that has been established between our countries.”

Israel’s Cabinet on. Jan. 31 approved the extension of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown—its third since March—until Feb. 5 and also approved extending an unprecedented ban on entry to and exit from Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport until Feb. 7 at midnight. The Cabinet was to have met on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of extending the lockdown until Sunday, but the meeting was rescheduled for Thursday.

Israel established diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in September as part of the historic Abraham Accords brokered by the United States. On Jan.24, Israel opened a temporary diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi, which will be replaced by an embassy when a permanent site can be found.


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