During his landmark visit to Bahrain Thursday to inaugurate the new Israeli embassy there, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid conducted a tour of the headquarters of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in the Arab kingdom.
Lapid was joined there by his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al- Zayani, and was hosted by Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of the United States Naval Forces Central Command.
The Fifth Fleet has sometimes clashed with Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf, and Lapid’s visit there was seen as a likely message to Tehran.
“Our three countries work together because we have similar interests in the region,” Lapid said, according to Reuters.
“When we speak about peace, we need to remember that peace must be protected from those who would harm it.”
The fleet tweeted photos from Lapid’s visit, saying the Israeli, American and Bahraini officials discussed “regional maritime security cooperation.”
VADM Brad Cooper welcomed Bahrain Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulatif bin Rashed AlZayani and Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid to the U.S. Navy base in Bahrain alongside U.S. Embassy Manama Chargé d’Affaires Maggie Nardi, Sept. 30. pic.twitter.com/FQ1qNYZ6SP
— U.S. 5th Fleet (@US5thFleet) September 30, 2021
Iran said Friday that the visit by Lapid to Bahrain left a stain on the reputation of the Gulf state’s rulers that “will not be erased.”
“We condemn any scheme that bolsters Israel’s destructive presence in the region,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement reported by the official IRNA news agency and cited by the Reuters news agency.
“It is unfortunate that Bahrain’s rulers ignore the Zionist regime’s daily crimes against the oppressed but resilient people of Palestine,” Khatibzadeh said.
“This stain will not be erased from the reputation of Bahrain’s rulers. The people of the region will continue to oppose the process of normalization of ties with the Zionist regime,” he said.
Sunni-ruled Bahrain has faced long-running unrest among its large Shiite community that it has consistently blamed on Iran.
Lapid met with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa at the royal palace, the first public meeting between the monarch and an Israeli official. He also met with Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the prime minister and crown prince.
Last year’s deal to establish ties with Bahrain was part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords, which also saw Israel announce the normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report.