TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a surprise visit to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, with the snap trip coming as efforts to salvage a deal over Iran’s nuclear program are stalled in a deepening standoff with Tehran.

The visit was Bennett’s second public trip to Abu Dhabi since Israel and the UAE agreed to normalize ties in 2020 after years of quiet cooperation, mainly over their shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

The Israeli leader met with the UAE’s president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the two discussed “advancing the regional architecture” and other undisclosed regional affairs, Bennett’s office said in a statement. Iran was likely to top the agenda.

President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed (Right) greets Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (Left)on his arrival to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, June 9, 2022.
President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed (right) greets Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on his arrival to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on June 9, 2022.
AP

In a video statement before departing, Bennett commended countries at an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna on Wednesday that voted to censure Iran over its lack of transparency about nuclear activities at three undeclared sites in the country.

“We see here a firm stance by the countries of the world regarding the distinction between good and evil, as they clearly state that Iran is concealing things. We will not let up on this issue,” he said.

The IAEA said Thursday that Iran plans to ramp up its uranium enrichment, with the installation of advanced centrifuges. Advanced uranium enrichment is a key component in the manufacture of a nuclear bomb.

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