Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 5 December 2020

Bahraini foreign minister urges Palestine-Israel talks on first official visit

Abdullatif Al Zayani addresses joint press conference with Mike Pompeo and Benjamin Netanyahu

The Palestinian Israeli conflict needs to be resolved to bring stability to the Middle East, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani said on Wednesday as he arrived for the first official visit to Jerusalem in a major step since the signing of the Abraham Accord in September.

Mr Al Zayani, whose visit coincides with the arrival of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, called for Israelis and Palestinians to renew peace talks aimed at a two-state solution to their longstanding conflict.

In remarks made during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mr Pompeo, Mr Al Zayani said the country’s historic decision to establish ties with the Jewish state would help foster "a dawn of the peace for the entire Middle East".

"In order to achieve and consolidate such a peace, the Palestinian and Israeli conflict needs to be resolved," he said.

"I therefore call for both parties to get around the negotiating table to achieve a viable two-state solution as is also sought by the international community," he said.

Mr Al Zayani also met Israel's President Reuven Rivlin, who presented him with a copy of the holy Quran, translated by Mr Rivlin’s father.

“I make clear to the Palestinian people that Israel wants to live in peace in this region. [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas, we want to live in peace. We are one family. We are all sons of Abraham, Jews and Muslims, the children of Abraham, as I have said. Israelis and Palestinians are not doomed to live together. We are destined to live together. It is time to build trust and to make peace, inshallah [Arabic for God willing],” Mr Rivlin said.

Mr Al Zayani raised a toast with the Israeli president. “We have elected to pursue a very difficult path. [The] path of peace is not easy. And we understand there will be challenges. There will be challenges that we have to work together as partners to overcome and show the fruits and the benefits of peace among nations,” he said.

The Bahraini agreement with Israel follows the signing of a historic peace accord between the UAE and Israel during a Washington ceremony in September. The deals breached decades of Arab League practice against making peace with Israel until the Palestinian conflict was resolved.

Detailing new ties between the two countries, Mr Al Zayani said 14 flights a week will soon connect Bahrain with Israel and an online visa application system, available from December 1, will allow travel by nationals of each country.

Mr Al Zayani was welcomed off Gulf Air flight GF972 – a reference to Israel's international dialling code – at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport by his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi.

He then attended a trilateral meeting with Mr Netanyahu and Mr Pompeo before the joint press conference.

Mr Pompeo had no scheduled meetings with Palestinian leaders during the two-day visit but Israeli press reports said he was due to visit a settlement in the West Bank – a trip the State Department has so far declined to confirm.

Dozens of Palestinians demonstrated in Al Bireh, a community opposite Psagot, located between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and some threw stones at soldiers guarding the entrance to the settlement.

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The Abraham Accord in pictures

Updated: November 19, 2020 10:57 AM

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