Bahraini King meets Israeli Foreign Minister as Israeli embassy opens in Manama

Israel’s Foreign Minister arrived in Bahrain on Thursday to meet King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and open the Israeli embassy as part of the normalisation process that started a year ago.

Yair Lapid landed in Manama on Thursday morning where he was greeted by the country’s Foreign Minister, Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani.

“We’ve landed in Bahrain. I’m proud to represent Israel in an official and historic first in the kingdom. Thanks for the warm reception,” Lapid wrote on Twitter.

Bahrain was one of the four countries that formally normalised relations with Israel by signing a U.S.-brokered agreement called the “Abraham Accords.” The other countries were the UAE, Sudan and Morocco.

Lapid later inaugurated the Israeli embassy in Manama in the presence of his counterpart. “We have officially opened the Israeli embassy in Bahrain. We agreed that by the end of the year, there will be the opening of the Bahraini embassy in Israel,” he tweeted.

According to the Bahrain News Agency, King Hamad welcomed the opening of the Israeli embassy and said: “The signing of the agreement is an important historical achievement on the road to achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and meeting the aspirations of its people for security, stability and prosperity.”

King Hamad of Bahrain

Also on Thursday, Lapid met with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and discussed cooperation between the two countries. “His Majesty’s leadership and inspiration have led to true cooperation and our meeting outlined the path forward for our relationship,” he wrote on Twitter.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Lior Haiat, added: “We see Bahrain as an important partner, both in bilateral level but also as a bridge to cooperation with other countries in the region.”

The pair held a joint press conference in which several Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) to cooperate in the fields of medicine, power, water and sports were signed.

After Lapid’s meeting with Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif al-Zayani, he said: “We talked about the cooperation between our countries and about taking the official peace between us and turning it into an active, economic, security, political and civic friendship.”

He said Israel and its friends in the Gulf were “leading today a brave coalition of moderates who are looking forward and creating a prosperous future of stability and tolerance.”

Mr Zayani said: “Your visit builds on the considerable progress we have already made and underlines once again our shared desire to spread peace, stability, and co-operation across the Middle East and achieve genuine and lasting security and prosperity for its peoples.”

Yair Lapid. Editorial credit: Gil Cohen Magen / Shutterstock.com

During the press conference, Bahrain reaffirmed its support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reacting to that, Lapid said that he too is a devoted supporter of a two-state solution. He however made it clear that these were his personal views.

“I think it’s the right solution for the people of Israel and the Palestinians, as well. Not everyone in our government thinks the same,” he said. “Our opportunities are shared, our threats are also shared, and they are not far from here,” he said, apparently alluding to Iran.

“The global struggle today is not between right and left, nor between Judaism and Islam or Christianity. The global struggle is between moderate and extreme. Between a culture of life, versus a culture of destruction and death. Today, together with all our friends in the Gulf, we are leading a brave coalition of moderates who are looking ahead to create a prosperous future of stability and tolerance. We live in a global reality in which those who are reclusive will disappear. Those who cooperate will lead both the world and the Middle East.”

An hour after the arrival of Lapid, the first commercial flight between the two countries left Manama’s airport and landed at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. The new Israel- Bahrain flight will operate twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. It will take less than three hours crossing Saudi Arabian airspace.

Before leaving last night, Lapid visited the headquarters of the US navy’s Fifth Fleet. The inclusion of the visit to the US navy base has been interpreted as a signal to Iran.

Bahrain also witnessed protests on the arrival of Israeli officials and normalisation of relations with the country. Clouds of smoke could be seen on the outskirts of Manama as protesters burned tyres to show their resentment. Netizens took to social media to mark their protest and hashtags like #BahrainRejectsZionists were circulated.

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