Bahrain applauds Argentina for blacklisting Hezbollah as terror organization
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Bahrain applauds Argentina for blacklisting Hezbollah as terror organization

Joining Israel in commending Buenos Aires, Manama hails ‘new step’ in global ‘recognition of the danger of this terrorist group to international peace and security’

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, right, gestures as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves at the Al-Qudaibiya Palace in Manama, January 11, 2019. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool/ AP)
Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, right, gestures as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves at the Al-Qudaibiya Palace in Manama, January 11, 2019. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool/ AP)

Bahrain on Friday joined Israel in commending Argentina for branding the Hezbollah a terrorist organization and freezing its assets, 25 years to the day after a bombing blamed on the Iran-backed group destroyed a Jewish community center in Argentina’s capital, killing 85 people.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kingdom of Bahrain welcomed the decision of the Argentine Republic to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and freeze its members’ assets on its territory,” the Gulf state said in a statement.

“The Ministry highlighted the decision as a new step towards the international community’s recognition of the danger of this terrorist group to international peace and security.”

The statement came as Foreign Minister Israel Katz met his Bahraini counterpart for talks on Iran in Washington and the two posed for a rare photograph, marking what Jerusalem said was a boost in ties with the Gulf nation.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019. (Courtesy)

The photo of Katz and Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, which was posted on Twitter Thursday by US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and later shared by Katz as well, was taken at a State Department event on religious freedom. It marked the rare instance in which a top Arab official is publicly documented meeting a senior Israeli figure.

Like most Arab states, Bahrain does not have diplomatic ties with Israel, though there has been an opening between the two in recent years amid their shared antipathy toward Iran.

Bahrain in December condemned Hezbollah and expressed support for Israel’s operation to expose and destroy the Iran-supported terror group’s cross-border tunnels from Lebanon.

Last month, Bahrain hosted an American-led conference where US President Donald Trump’s peace team rolled out the economic aspects of its long-awaited proposal to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While no Israeli officials were there, a number of businessmen and journalists were invited to attend the workshop.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Katz also praised Buenos Aires for the decision on Thursday to crack down on the Iranian proxy.

“We’ll continue to act in every place to include Hezbollah on the terror organizations list. The entire world must unite in the struggle against terror spread by Iran and its proxies,” Katz wrote on Twitter.

Argentina’s Financial Information Unit took the action a day after Argentinian President Mauricio Macri’s government created a list of terrorist organizations to help coordinate actions with other nations and as the nation held memorial services for victims of the attack, for which no one has been convicted.

“At the present time, Hezbollah continues to represent a current and active threat to national security and the integrity of the financial, economic order of the Argentine Republic,” the unit said.

It’s not clear how much impact the ruling will have or how many assets Hezbollah might have in Argentina. The Lebanese group already has been put on terrorism lists by the US, the European Union and several other nations.

The designation came as Argentina marked 25 years since the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center.

Women touch a board filled with the names of people killed in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center, at the site of the attack 25 years ago in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 18, 2019. The bombing killed 85 people. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Sirens rang out in cities throughout the country at 9:53 a.m. the exact time the bomb ripped through the Buenos Aires building, and names of those killed were read out at an official ceremony.

Both Argentina and Israel have also attributed the 1992 bombing on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that left 29 dead to Hezbollah.

The blacklisting of Hezbollah was also praised by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who said the issue was at the center of her talks with Argentine officials during her recent visit to the South American state.

The memorial service began with a moment of silence, followed by a reading of the names of each of the 85 victims.

“How is it possible that 25 years later there has not been a single responsible person imprisoned for this crime against humanity?” asked Ariel Eichbaum, president of the association, which is known by its Spanish initials, AMIA.

“We continue to have questions to which there are still no answers. Twenty-five years have passed and the wound remains open, a wound that cannot be closed without justice,” he added.

In this photo from July 18, 1994, a man walks over the rubble of the Argentinian Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires after it was targeted in a deadly bombing. (Ali Burafi/AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has ramped up pressure on Iran and Hezbollah while in office, was flying to Argentina to attend another memorial service on Friday and attend a meeting of international officials on fighting terrorism.

A view of the AMIA Jewish community center building at the 23rd anniversary commemoration of the 1994 terrorist bombing that killed 85 people and injured 300, in Buenos Aires, July 18, 2017. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images/via JTA)

Argentina has accused top Iranian ex-officials of being behind the AMIA attack but has never been able to question them.

Decades of investigations have been beset by political interference and allegations of high-level corruption.

With its 300,000-strong Jewish community — second only to the US in the Americas — Argentina is the only country in Latin America to have suffered such an anti-Semitic attack.

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