Israeli foreign minister opens embassy in Bahrain

Inauguration follows Israel opening its embassy to the UAE

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid opened his country’s embassy to Bahrain on Thursday, during his first official visit to the Gulf nation since the two countries forged diplomatic ties last year.

Mr Lapid received a red-carpet welcome in Bahrain, stepping off an Israir Airlines flight to be greeted by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullatif Al Zayani.

The plane was decorated with an olive branch and words such as “peace” in Arabic, English and Hebrew.

“We’re meeting to officially sign the peace agreements between us, to turn this peace into an active friendship, economic, security, diplomatic, and civilian,” Mr Lapid said after talks with Mr Al Zayani.

Shortly after his arrival at Manama airport, a Gulf Air jet took off for Tel Aviv on the first commercial flight between the two countries.

The two ministers later cut a ribbon and unveiled a plaque to inaugurate the Israeli embassy.

Washington last year brokered a landmark diplomatic deal between Israel and Bahrain and the UAE. Morocco and Sudan followed later.

During Mr Lapid's one-day visit to Bahrain, he and Mr Al Zayani signed agreements in areas such as health and water.

The two discussed “the political and security developments in the region, regional challenges and issues of common concern”, Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said.

Israel’s foreign minister also met Bahrain's King Hamad and Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad.

Earlier on Thursday, demonstrators opposed to the warming ties set tyres ablaze on the outskirts of Manama.

Israel has hailed the shift in regional relations, as Arab nations had previously said that peace with the Palestinians must precede diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Palestinian leadership has rejected the normalisation deals.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Washington wants to expand the so-called Abraham Accords between Israel and Arab nations.

“We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy, because it’s in the interests of countries across the region and around the world,” he said on September 17, without mentioning specific countries.

Since the agreements were announced last year, the UAE and Israel have opened embassies in Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: September 30th 2021, 8:07 PM