JERUSALEM: Annual trade between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is expected to reach $4 billion, an Israeli minister said on Monday.
Israel and the UAE announced in August they would normalize diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by Washington.
The UAE has since announced it was scrapping an economic boycott on Israel and officials from the two countries have said they were looking at cooperation in defense, energy, medicine, tourism, technology and financial investment.
A number of Israeli and Emirati businesses have signed deals since the normalization accord was announced.
“Within 3 to 5 years trade between Israel and the United Arab Emirates will reach $4 billion,” Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Israel’s Reshet Bet radio station.
A spokesman for Cohen, Israel’s former economy minister, said the figure was annual and included defense trade.
Israeli carrier Israir said on Sunday it had reserved slots for commercial flights from Tel Aviv to the UAE, preparing for potential tourism.
The heads of Israel’s two biggest banks will travel to the UAE this month, the first such visits since the countries agreed to normalize relations.
Separately, Emirates airlines said on Monday it had so far returned $1.4 billion in refunds to customers amid sharply reduced global travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Emirates reveals that is has returned over 5 billion dirhams in COVID-19 related travel refunds,” the aviation giant said in a statement.
“More than 1.4 million refunds requests have been completed since March, representing 90 percent of the airline’s backlog.”
The Dubai-based carrier posted 1.1 billion dirhams ($288 million) in net profit for the financial year ending March, up from $237 million the previous year.
It was the 32nd straight year of profit for Emirates, but the sharp downturn in global travel in 2020 may result in a loss.
Emirates said it serves 80 destinations — down from 157 before the pandemic — but has gradually been expanding its network again after Dubai eased travel restriction to revive its tourism industry.
Its chief operating officer, Adel Al-Redha, said last month that the airline expects to resume flights to all “network destinations” by summer 2021.
The airline has announced several rounds of layoffs, without disclosing numbers.
Before the virus hit, Emirates employed some 60,000 staff, including 4,300 pilots and nearly 22,000 cabin crew, according to its annual report.