Bahrain confirms foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Israel

Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani and US Secretary of State Pompeo to hold talks with Netanyahu; officials hope aviation agreement will be signed

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani delivers a statement upon the arrival of a US-Israeli delegation in the Bahrain International Airport on October 18, 2020. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani delivers a statement upon the arrival of a US-Israeli delegation in the Bahrain International Airport on October 18, 2020. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani is to make a visit to Israel on Wednesday, the first by a senior official from the country since it signed a normalization deal with the Jewish state, official Bahraini media confirmed.

The BNA news agency said Monday that the visit would “affirm Bahrain’s strong and permanent position in favor of supporting the peace process” and be focused on “the economic opportunities and bilateral accords with Israel.”

The meeting is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Netanyahu, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Foreign Minster Gabi Ashkenazi and Bahrain’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism Zayed Bin Rashid Al Zayani, the Israeli news site Walla reported.

Pompeo is on a seven-nation tour that includes stops in France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

Israeli officials quoted by Walla said they were working to finalize an aviation agreement for direct flights between Tel Aviv and Manama by Wednesday so it can be signed at the meeting.

The officials are also expected to discuss opening embassies and exchanging ambassadors.

The Bahraini, Israeli and US flags are pictured in front of an El Al plane ahead of a flight to Bahrain’s capital Manama from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on October 18, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP)

Also this week, A US delegation led by peace envoy Avi Berkowitz will travel to Bahrain and Israel to participate in talks on bolstering economic ties between the two countries, a senior White House official said in a statement. The delegation will land on Monday in Bahrain and then will join Bahraini officials in the first commercial flight from Manama to Tel Aviv where additional talks will be held with Israeli officials.

On Sunday, the cabinet voted unanimously to ratify the “Joint Communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful, and friendly relations” with the Kingdom of Bahrain.

“The establishment of peace and normalization with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan constitute a major achievement for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting, minutes before the vote.

“This is the result of a long effort we have led for years, an effort to expand the circle of peace, an effort to bring true peace, an effort to bring peace for peace,” he added.

Last Tuesday, the Knesset approved the pact with an overwhelming majority. Sixty-two lawmakers voted in favor; 14 — all from the predominantly-Arab Joint List party — opposed the agreement. There were no abstentions.

On October 18, at a ceremony in Manama, Israel and Bahrain signed the US-brokered Joint Communiqué, which is not legally a treaty, but a “framework agreement.” However, with the signing of the document, Israel and Bahrain formally established diplomatic relations, Israeli officials said at the time. It was signed by Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Al-Zayani.

The Bahraini government ratified the agreement several weeks ago.

Bahrain is one of two Gulf nations to sign normalization agreements with Israel, the other being the United Arab Emirates.

On October 25, the cabinet ratified the “Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations, and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel,” which the two sides had signed during a historic White House ceremony on September 15.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan pose for a photo on the Blue Room Balcony after signing the Abraham Accords during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on September 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Last month a delegation of senior UAE officials arrived in Israel for meetings with their Israeli counterparts. They signed four bilateral agreements with Israel, including a visa waiver agreement.

Israel has already reached an aviation agreement with UAE to enable 28 weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Also in late October, Israel and Sudan agreed to normalize relations and to “end the state of belligerence between their nations” in a deal brokered by the US administration.

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