India, Israel agree to resume negotiations on FTA from next month

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JERUSALEM, Oct 18 (PTI): India and Israel on Monday agreed to resume negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) from next month with an aim to conclude the long-pending deal by next June as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held “very productive talks” with Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

“Our officials have actually agreed on the resumption of the India-Israel free trade negotiations starting in November. They are very confident that we would be able to conclude the negotiations by next June,” Jaishankar announced after he met Lapid.

Discussions around the FTA have been going on between the two sides for more than a decade but it is the first time that a definite deadline has been set, providing seriousness to the process.

Several announcements on the issue have been made by the two sides over the years but the agreement has remained elusive.

“Very productive talks today with APM and FM @YairLapid. Discussed a wide range of regional and global issues. Agreed to resume FTA negotiations next month. Agreed in principle on mutual recognition of Covid vaccination certification,” Jaishankar later tweeted.

On his part, Lapid also stressed that the FTA will be “finalised as fast as we can” in the interest of both the countries and business communities.

“I am looking forward to deeply strengthening friendship between our countries,” he said, describing India as “one of our most, not only a strategic partner but also a friend.”

“We see India as an important ally for many years,” Lapid stated. “India also brings new opportunities for cooperation.”

The two ministers also discussed further cooperation in the areas of water and agriculture.

“I finished a meeting with Indian Minister of External Affairs @DrSJaishankar & Minister of Energy @KElharrar at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We decided to renew negotiations on a free trade agreement between our nations, and on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates,” Lapid tweeted.

He thanked his “friend” Jaishankar for his visit to Israel, a visit preceding events which will take place next year to mark 30 years of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Israel has also joined the International Solar Alliance (ISA), a global initiative that India has spearheaded, with Jaishankar and Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar signing on the agreement.

“First of all let me say what a great pleasure it is to see Israel joining the international solar alliance. I think you bring a lot of value to the table and as we approach COP 26, it is very important in our growing agenda and green road, green economy,” Jaishankar said as welcomed Israel as the newest member of the ISA.

“We understand that only a global action will succeed in addressing the climate crisis securing the future of our children and our loved ones,” Elharrar said after signing the MoU.

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