Israeli Foreign Minister arrives in Bahrain on landmark visit

Yair Lapid will open the Israeli embassy in the Gulf country

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid began a landmark visit to Bahrain on Thursday, a year after the normalisation of ties between the two countries.

Mr Lapid, who landed at Bahrain's international airport in an Israir plane with an olive branch painted on its nose, met Bahrain's King Hamad and Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad.

He also held talks with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani and will inaugurate Israel's embassy in Manama.

“His Majesty's leadership and inspiration have led to true co-operation and our meeting outlined the path forward for our relationship,” Mr Lapid said on Twitter after meeting the king.

Shortly after Mr Lapid touched down at Manama airport, Bahrain's Gulf Air launched its first direct flight between Manama and Tel Aviv. Flight GF972 touched down at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon.

Five initial accords will be signed, including co-operation agreements between hospitals and water and power companies, the Israeli foreign ministry said.

“We see Bahrain as an important partner, on the bilateral level but also as a bridge to co-operate with other countries in the region,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

“The main areas in which Bahrain is looking for cooperation have to do with the economy and technology, and a few of the MOUs that will be signed [on Thursday] will be about that,” the spokesman said.

A dozen agreements have been signed so far between the two countries, including deals related to transport, agriculture, communication and finance.

The UAE, Morocco and Sudan also established ties with Israel last year.

Under the Abraham Accords, which former US president Donald Trump helped to mediate and signed at the White House on September 15 last year, the UAE and Bahrain agreed to officially establish relations with Israel on condition that it suspended the planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley.

Last November, Bahrain and Israel agreed to open embassies in their respective capitals.

Israeli diplomat Eitan Naeh was appointed this month as the country's first ambassador to Bahrain. Mr Naeh had served for eight months as temporary head of mission at the Israeli embassy in the UAE.

Mr Lapid has already visited the UAE and Morocco and opened Israel’s diplomatic offices there since he became Israel’s Foreign Minister in June.

Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel, Khaled Yousef Al Jalahma, arrived earlier this month in Tel Aviv and presented his credentials to Israel’s President Isaac Herzog on the anniversary of the signing of the accords.

“I’m so proud that we took this brave step last year to work hand-in-hand towards peace, security and stability in the world,” said Mr Al Jalahma on the anniversary.

Updated: September 30th 2021, 6:18 PM