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Plane had to circle in Israel while awaiting overflight OK

Top Israeli officials fly to Bahrain to hammer out normalization treaty

Heads of PM’s Office, Foreign Ministry join first-ever Israir flight through Saudi airspace; delegation comes a day after Netanyahu call with Manama’s Crown Prince Salman

Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, and US President Donald Trump participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House on September 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)
Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, and US President Donald Trump participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House on September 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

A delegation of Israeli officials flew to Bahrain on Wednesday morning for talks meant to hammer out the details of the two countries’ formal normalization treaty after last week’s signing in Washington of a “Declaration of Peace” between the two governments.

The flight followed a phone call Tuesday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa during which the two leaders reportedly agreed on having the delegation make the trip.

The high-level delegation is led by Prime Minister’s Office Acting Director General Ronen Peretz and Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz, and includes senior National Security Council officials.

A group of Israeli business leaders is also part of the delegation, Hebrew media reported.

Illustrative: View of an Israir flight taking off from Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv. September 3, 2015 (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Bahrain’s state-run media did not immediately acknowledge the flight. Officials on the island off the coast of Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The US Embassy in Manama similarly did not respond to a request for comment.

An Israeli official confirmed the existence of the flight on condition of anonymity.

The group flew on Israir flight 111, the Israeli airline’s first foray over Saudi airspace.

Flight data showed an the Airbus A320 landed at Bahrain International Airport after a nearly three-hour flight from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

According to the Ynet news site, the plane had to circle inside Israel a few times as final overflight permission was obtained from Jordanian and Saudi authorities.

During Tuesday’s call between Netanyahu and Salman, the crown prince “underscored the importance of securing regional and international stability and enhancing efforts to support peace in the region,” according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency.

Salman further noted that “the agreement signed at the White House on September 15 will strengthen regional security, stability and prosperity.”

Bahrain’s Crown prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa smiles while seeing off Britain’s Prince Charles and wife Camilla in Manama, Bahrain, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. (AP/Jon Gambrell)

Netanyahu and the future king of the tiny island nation also “reviewed potential areas of bilateral cooperation and relevant regional and international developments,” according to the agency.

The two leaders reiterated the content of the so-called Abraham Accords that both nations signed last week, and discussed “how we might quickly add content to the agreements between Bahrain and Israel and turn this peace into economic peace, technological peace, tourist peace, peace in all of these fields,” he said in a statement. “You will hear about the practical steps very soon.”

Salman, 50, has been Bahrain’s crown prince since 1999. He also holds the positions of deputy supreme commander, first deputy prime minister and chairman of Bahrain’s Economic Development Board.

On September 11, US President Donald Trump announced that Bahrain was following the United Arab Emirates in normalizing ties with Israel.

Four days later, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani and Netanyahu signed a “Declaration of Peace” in which both countries committed to “open an era of friendship and cooperation in pursuit of a Middle East region that is stable, secure and prosperous for the benefit of all states and peoples in the region.”

Raphael Ahren and AP contributed to this report.

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