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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid pose ahead of their meeting in Rome, on June 27. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold a trilateral meeting at the State Department on Wednesday with the foreign ministers of Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Why it matters: This is the first such meeting since the signing in 2020 of the “Abraham Accords,” normalization agreements Israel struck with Bahrain and the UAE. It is a substantial step by the Biden administration to strengthen the treaty between the countries.

Behind the scenes: Israel's Yair Lapid and the UAE's Abdullah Bin Zayed initiated the gathering, telling Blinken they would be coming to Washington at the same time and proposing the meeting, Israeli officials told Axios.

Flashback: A similar meeting took place in secret in 2009 when the UAE's ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, and his Israeli counterpart, Salay Meridor, reached out together to the Obama administration to raise their concerns about Iran.

  • Jeremy Issacharoff, then the deputy head of mission at Israel's embassy in Washington, reached out to Dennis Ross, then the State Department's point man on Iran, and proposed the meeting.

Ross was surprised by the unprecedented proposal and agreed immediately. The meeting was held in secret in al-Otaiba’s suite at the Four Seasons in Georgetown. This week’s trilateral meeting will be held in public and on foreign minister level.

What they are saying: Israeli officials say the meeting will focus on boosting U.S.-Israeli-Emirati cooperation on a set of issues as part of the strengthening of the Abraham Accords.

  • But Israeli officials say the meeting will also be an opportunity to present Israel and the UAE's concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and regional activity.
  • “They will discuss progress made since the signing of the Abraham Accords last year, future opportunities for collaboration, and bilateral issues, including regional security and stability,” the State Department said in a statement.

Go deeper: Israeli foreign minister heads to D.C. to coordinate on Iran

Go deeper

Jan 12, 2022 - World

China hosts string of Gulf officials in sign of growing influence

Wang Yi (right) greets Faisal bin Farhan on Jan. 10. Photo: Ji Chunpeng/Xinhua via Getty

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain and the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council are all visiting China this week for talks on boosting trade and security cooperation.

Why it matters: The flurry of visits by Gulf officials is part of China’s push for deeper involvement in the Middle East. For Beijing, the Gulf in particular is key to its energy supply and increasingly to its geopolitical influence.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker