Israeli FM opens embassy in first visit to Bahrain

Published October 1, 2021
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, meets with Bahraini King Hamid bin Issa Al Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain, Sept 30. — AP
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, meets with Bahraini King Hamid bin Issa Al Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain, Sept 30. — AP

JERUSALEM: Israel and Bahrain cemented their year-old agreement to establish diplomatic ties on Thursday, with the king of the small Gulf Arab state hosting Israel’s foreign minister who for the first time opened an embassy in the capital of Manama.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa on the same day as the first direct flight from Manama touched down in Tel Aviv. The top Israeli diplomat later called the visit warm and optimistic.

Bahrain’s carrier Gulf Air was met at Ben Gurion International Airport with a water salute and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The festivities reinforced the accord between Israel and the island nation, one of four Arab states that signed onto the US-brokered Abraham Accords. Lapid has already visited the United Arab Emirates and Morocco and opened Israel’s diplomatic offices in those two countries since he became foreign minister in June.

During his meeting with Lapid, King Hamad hailed the normalisation agreement as a historical achievement on the road to just and lasting peace in the Middle East, state-run Bahrain News Agency reported.

The launch of the first flight brings new and exciting opportunities between our countries and allows our peoples to finally meet and build connections that will create a brighter future, said Undersecretary of Bahrain Civil Aviation Affair, Mohammed Thamir Al Kaabi.

The Israeli diplomatic delegation and its Bahraini counterparts were to sign a raft of agreements to further cement bilateral ties, including economic deals and cooperation between hospitals and water companies.

The two countries had long enjoyed clandestine security ties over a shared distrust of regional rival Iran, but only last year took the relationship public.

We see Bahrain as an important partner, both in the bilateral level but also as a bridge to cooperation with other countries in the region, said Lior Haiat, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2021

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