Blinken talks Israel with Bahraini foreign minister

Call comes shortly after Bahrain appointed its first ambassador to Israel

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the release of the "2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" at the State Department in Washington, DC, U.S., March 30, 2021. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani discussed Manama’s recent elevation of ties with Israel by phone on Friday.

“Secretary Blinken and the foreign minister discussed Bahrain’s historic opening with Israel, ways to capitalise on progress made at the US-Bahrain strategic dialogue held in December and joint regional security initiatives throughout the Gulf,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a readout of the call.

Mr Blinken's discussion with Dr Al Zayani comes after Bahrain appointed its first ambassador to Israel on Tuesday. King Hamad bin Isa appointed Khalid Yusuf Al Jalahma as ambassador in two royal decrees that also established the Bahraini mission in Israel in Tel Aviv.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi welcomed Mr Jalahma’s appointment on Thursday.

“I am pleased to see our commitment to implementing the agreements between us [and] promoting real peace between our peoples,” wrote Mr Ashkenazi.

Bahrain jointed the UAE last year as an initial signatory to the Abraham Accords that normalised relations between Israel and the two Gulf states. Sudan and Morocco subsequently signed on to the accords in the following weeks.

The United States and Bahrain launched an inaugural, two-week strategic dialogue in December.

A joint statement from both countries after the dialogue emphasised both the Abraham Accords and Bahrain’s improved efforts to combat human trafficking – a point that Mr Blinken reiterated during his Friday call with Dr Al Zayani.

“Secretary Blinken outlined key policy objectives, including continued progress on human rights and commended Bahrain for its successful efforts to combat human trafficking," said Mr Price.

The positive tone on Bahrain's progress contrasted with a statement released by Mr Price, following Mr Blinken's call with Mr Ashkenazi, also on Friday.

Mr Price said that Palestinian rights must be central to ongoing rapprochement in the region.

"The secretary emphasised the administration’s belief that Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy," Mr Price said.

He said Mr Blinken reiterated the United States’ "strong commitment to Israel and its security and looks forward to strengthening all aspects of the US-Israel partnership."