Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev (R) Mohamed Bin Thaaloob al-Derai, President of UAE Wrestling Judo & Kickboxing Federation are seen during the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Judo tournament in Abu Dhabi on October 27, 2018. Photo: AFP

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Miri Regev on Monday became the first Israeli minister to visit the United Arab Emirates, marking a major elevation in ties that the Gulf state has long preferred to be kept quiet.

The sports and culture minister was ostensibly in Abu Dhabi to cheer on the Israeli judo team, which has previously competed in several Arab states that do not have ties with Israel.

But an official tour to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque signaled the visit had greater diplomatic implications and was fully endorsed by the authorities.

Regev was visibly moved as the Israeli anthem played in the stadium for gold medal winner Sagi Muki. The previous year, the anthem had been banned, along with the flag of Israel.

The visit by the Isreali minister comes just days after another Gulf state, Oman, hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The ruler of Bahrain praised the wisdom of Sultan Qaboos following the major step, hinting that Manama could follow suit.

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