Bahrain, Israel cement year-old accord, open new embassy

AP , Thursday 30 Sep 2021

Israel and Bahrain cemented their year-old agreement to establish diplomatic ties on Thursday, with the king of the small Gulf Arab state hosting Israel's foreign minister who for the first time opened an embassy in the capital of Manama

Israel s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, center left, is met by his Bahraini counterpart, Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani, center right, for the first high-level visit to the small Gulf state by a senior Israeli official since the signing of a landmark agreement to establish diplomatic ties between the two countries last year, in Manama, Bahrain, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. AP

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on the same day as the first direct flight from Manama touched down in Tel Aviv. The top Israeli diplomat later called the visit ``warm and optimistic.''

Bahrain's carrier Gulf Air was met at Ben Gurion International Airport with a water salute and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The festivities reinforced the accord between Israel and the island nation, one of four Arab states that signed onto the U.S.-brokered ``Abraham Accords.'' Lapid has already visited the United Arab Emirates and Morocco and opened Israel's diplomatic offices in those two countries since he became foreign minister in June.

During his meeting with Lapid, King Hamad hailed the normalization agreement as a ``historical achievement on the road to just and lasting peace in the Middle East,'' state-run Bahrain News Agency reported.

``The launch of the first flight brings new and exciting opportunities between our countries and allows our peoples to finally meet and build connections that will create a brighter future,'' said Undersecretary of Bahrain Civil Aviation Affair, Mohammed Thamir Al Kaabi.

The Israeli diplomatic delegation and its Bahraini counterparts were to 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 clandestine security ties over a shared distrust of regional rival Iran, but only last year took the relationship public.

``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.

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.

The Israeli delegation arrived earlier this week and joined Bahrain's tiny Jewish community in marking the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah. Haiat said it was the first time in over 75 years that the community could mark the holiday in its synagogue.

``The fact that we could celebrate it yesterday was a very joyful event for us and for the community as well,'' he said.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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