US-Israel delegation in Bahrain for steps towards normalisation

El Al Flight 973 landed in Manama on Sunday afternoon

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A joint US-Israel delegation visited Bahrain on Sunday, where officials signed bilateral agreements after an announcement last month of the intention to normalise relations.

El Al Flight 973, named after Bahrain's international dialling code, flew from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport through Saudi Arabian airspace to Manama, landing at Bahrain International Airport on Sunday afternoon.

The delegation was met by Bahrain's Foreign Minister, Abdullatif Al Zayani.

"Today we build on that historic occasion at the White House last month, taking the next steps to implement the declaration in support of peace and the Abraham Accords," Mr Zayani said.

"We do so in the conviction that this approach of engagement and co-operation is the most effective, the most sustainable, means to bring about a genuine and lasting peace, one which safeguards the rights of the Middle East's peoples."

The Israeli delegation was led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Foreign Ministry director general Alon Ushpiz.

The US team was led by Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin.

The delegation headed to the office of the Deputy Prime Minister,  Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, in Gudaibiyah Palace.

Sheikh Mohammed said Bahrain's approach to peace in the region aimed to boost efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue on the basis of the two-state solution, international legitimacy and the Arab Peace Initiative, the Bahrain News Agency reported.

Mr Ben-Shabbat said before take-off that the visit would “translate plans to actions and concrete agreements”, with deals signed involving finance, investment, trade, tourism, communications, technology and agriculture.

Another Israeli official said the visit represented the official establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which were expected to sign a joint statement establishing full diplomatic relations.

Mr Mnuchin said the opportunities were "quite enormous" for deals in "economic, trade, investment cultural and security between the three countries".

The visit came days after the Knesset overwhelmingly approved the Abraham Accord between Israel and the UAE, and one month after the accord was signed on the White House lawn on September 15.

As part of the deal to normalise relations, the UAE and Bahrain and Israel will eventually establish embassies and exchange ambassadors.

The Israeli official said the Israeli embassy was expected to open in Bahrain in the coming months.

Egypt and Jordan are the only other two Arab states to sign diplomatic treaties with Israel, in 1979 and 1994, respectively.

The Israeli delegation is slated to fly back to Tel Aviv later on Sunday, while the Americans will head to the UAE before flying to Israel on Tuesday.

Last month, the first known commercial flight between the two countries brought a delegation of Israeli officials to Manama to discuss co-operation between Israel and Bahrain after the signing of an agreement to normalise ties.