Bahrain’s FM: Accord is ‘historic step’; Israel’s Ben-Shabbat: ‘From friends to family’

At a press conference in Manama after the two countries sign their normalization accords, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani expresses hope for “fruitful bilateral cooperation in every field” and regional peace, including a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“His Highness [King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa] believes in the importance of strengthening the values of tolerance, and coexistence, and mutual understanding, between different cultures and religions,” al-Zayani says, especially in a region “whose peoples have suffered from many conflicts and struggles.”

He adds: “The Palestinian question must be solved through direct negotiations between the two sides to reach a solution which satisfies both parties and brings about a two state solution, according to the principles of the Arab Peace Initiative and the relevant international law.”

Speaking after Israel and Bahrain signed an agreement to normalize relations, Al-Zayani notes the countries also signed a number of memoranda of understanding in various fields, including the commercial, agricultural, and technological arenas.

“We salute the Israeli government for its responsiveness in realizing this historic step,” al-Zayani says. “We will work with the international community to realize peace across the Middle East in the near future.”

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, representing the administration of President Donald Trump — which helped broker the deal — briefly speaks about the opportunities for both countries that can now be realized.

“This is truly a remarkable accomplishment,” he says. He mentions the first-ever nonstop El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Manama that brought the Israeli and US teams. “I look forward to this being the first of many commercial flights going back and forth between the countries,” says Mnuchin.

Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat hails the agreements as a first step in the peace to be forged between Israel and Bahrain. He thanks his Bahraini hosts for the warm welcome and promises that any Bahraini delegation to Israel will receive similar treatment.

“We started the day as friends and we’re concluding it as family members — members of the family of Abraham,” says Ben-Shabbat, alluding to last month’s Abraham Accords signed at the White House.

— Aaron Boxerman, Raphael Ahren

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