Bahrain sidesteps Pompeo push for deal with Israel

AFP , Thursday 27 Aug 2020

'The king stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict according to the two-state solution'

A handout picture released by Bahrain
A handout picture released by Bahrain's official news agency (BNA) on August 26, 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2nd-L) meeting with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (C) upon his arrival in the capital Manama. AFP

Bahrain said Wednesday it was committed to the creation of a Palestinian state in talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, implicitly rejecting his push for Arab countries to swiftly normalise ties with Israel.

Pompeo was in Manama as part of a Middle East trip aimed at forging more links between Israel and the Arab world after a landmark US-brokered deal with the United Arab Emirates.

The US chief diplomat has said he is hopeful other nations will follow the UAE, which earlier this month became only the third Arab country to agree to establish relations with the Israel.

"Hopeful we will build on this momentum towards regional peace," Pompeo tweeted as he landed in Abu Dhabi, the latest stop on the tour which has taken in Israel, Sudan and Bahrain.

However, Sudan's transitional government on Tuesday dashed hopes for a speedy breakthrough, saying it has "no mandate" to take such a weighty step.

And Bahrain echoed the sentiments of its ally, regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, that an accord with Israel would not materialise without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa said he told Pompeo that his country remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative -- which calls for Israel's complete withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied after 1967, in exchange for peace and the full normalisation of relations.

"The king stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict according to the two-state solution... to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital," the official Bahrain News Agency reported.

Pompeo said in a tweet only that he discussed with Bahrain's royal rulers the "importance of building regional peace and stability" and "countering Iran's malign influence".

Manama was the first Gulf country to welcome the UAE rapprochement and was considered a front-runner to follow in its footsteps.

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