Israeli FM Lapid arrives in Bahrain for first official visit

AP , Thursday 30 Sep 2021

Israel's foreign minister arrived in Bahrain on Thursday, the first high-level visit to the small Gulf state by a senior Israeli official since the signing last year of a landmark agreement to establish diplomatic ties.

Israel FM visit to Bahrain
Israel s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, center left, is met by his Bahraini counterpart, Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani, center right, in Manama, Bahrain, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. AP

Yair Lapid landed in Bahrain's capital, Manama, for meetings with his Bahraini counterpart and to inaugurate Israel's embassy. It was the first official visit by an Israeli Cabinet member.

After Lapid landed, Bahrain carrier Gulf Air launched its first direct flight between Manama and Tel Aviv.

The Israeli diplomatic delegation was to meet with its Bahraini counterparts and sign a raft of agreements to further cement bilateral ties, including economic deals and cooperation between hospitals and water companies. The two countries had long enjoyed shared distrust of regional rival Iran.

``We see Bahrain as an important partner, both in the bilateral level but also as a bridge to cooperation with other countries in the region,'' said Lior Haiat, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

Israel established formal diplomatic relations with four Arab states last year as part of the U.S.-brokered ``Abraham Accords.'' Lapid has already visited the United Arab Emirates and Morocco and opened Israel's diplomatic offices there since he became Israel's foreign minister in June.

Lapid said in a statement that the Israeli delegation and Bahraini officials ``talked about the cooperation between our countries and about taking the official peace between us and turning it into an active, economic, security, political and civic friendship.''

Bahrain's first ambassador to Israel arrived earlier this month and presented his credentials to Israel's figurehead president on the anniversary of the signing of the accords.

The deals to establish relations with Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco and the UAE were the first peace accords between Israel and Arab states in decades, after peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1995.

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