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Israeli team heads to Bahrain for talks on bilateral ties

Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz slated to meet Bahraini FM in Manama as part of ‘Warm Peace’ strategy

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foriegn Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz attends a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Foriegn Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz attends a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, June 9, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz flew to Bahrain on Wednesday for a series of talks on the growing bilateral relationship.

Ushpiz is leading an Israeli delegation that will take part in the second bilateral steering committee meeting between the two countries. The first meeting took place in Israel last August.

In Manama, Ushpiz is also slated to meet Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Sheikh Abdulla Al Khalifa.

During Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to Bahrain in February, the two sides agreed on a 10-year bilateral plan called “The Joint Warm Peace Strategy” to guide relations. The plan prioritizes innovation, food and water security, healthcare, trade and investment, and education.

Bahrain and Israel officially signed the Warm Peace plan during the Negev Summit in March.

In a statement from the Foreign Ministry, Ushpiz said ties with Bahrain were “at the heart of Israel’s diplomatic work.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (C-R) walks alongside his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani during the Negev summit in Sde Boker on March 28, 2022. (Jacquelyn MARTIN / POOL / AFP)

“The roadmap for developing ties between the countries is being built step by step with practical measures that bear fruit for the benefit of both countries,” he continued.

Israel and Bahrain established full diplomatic relations in September 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords, a series of diplomatic deals between the Jewish state and four Arab countries.

Bahrain — which, like Israel, sees Iran as a bitter foe — has been candid about the extent of its ties with Israel. In February, Al Khalifa said that Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is active in his country.

“There is intelligence cooperation between Bahrain and Israel. Mossad is in Bahrain and they’re present in the region,” he said.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, a Bahraini undersecretary for the ministry of foreign affairs, speaks at the Munich Security Conference, on February 20. 2022. (Screenshot)

Bennett’s February visit came two weeks after Benny Gantz became Israel’s first defense minister to publicly visit the country. Gantz signed a memorandum of understanding with his Bahraini counterpart during the trip. According to Gantz’s office, the memorandum of understanding “will help advance intelligence cooperation, a framework for exercises, and cooperation between the countries’ defense industries.”

The Negev Summit was another major step in the bilateral and regional ties. It is designed to become a permanent regional forum, bringing together foreign ministers of Israel, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates and the US secretary of state. Other countries, including Jordan, are expected to join future meetings.

The unprecedented gathering was widely seen as an attempt by Israel and its Arab allies to create a front against shared regional foe Iran. Israeli officials told reporters on the scene that the talks centered around creating a “regional security architecture,” among other issues.

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