US and Bahrain convene strategic dialogue

Talks began as kingdom sent second official delegation to Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, prepares to put on his mask as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approaches Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani, left, during a joint press conference after their trilateral meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/Pool via AP)
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The US and Bahrain convened their first strategic dialogue on Tuesday as the Gulf kingdom took more steps to deepen ties with Israel.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullatif Al Zayani, delivered opening remarks online to start the dialogue as a delegation from Manama arrived in Israel.

“There’s already more trade and investment between Bahrain and Israel in areas like telecoms and financial services in just a handful of weeks,” Mr Pompeo said.

“Indeed, when I was in Israel just a couple weeks back now, I greeted the first direct flight from Bahrain carrying the first cabinet-level delegation, including the foreign minister.

“We held a trilateral meeting to build on our progress, including by opening the door for an exchange of embassies between Israel and Bahrain.”

The Bahraini delegation to Israel, led by the Bahraini Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Zayed Al Zayani, is the second to visit since the two nations normalised ties in September by signing the Abraham Accord in Washington, alongside the UAE.

“We have moved so quickly to ensure that establishing diplomatic relations with Israel leads to a genuine, warm peace and the rapid development of economic, cultural and people-to-people ties,” Foreign Minister Al Zayani said in his opening remarks to Tuesday's dialogue.

Israel also launched its first commercial flight to the UAE on Tuesday.

The US and Bahraini governments plan to establish five working groups within the next few weeks as part of the dialogue.

“They’ll discuss how we can make sure that our two nations co-ordinate more in areas like military training and on women’s empowerment,” Mr Pompeo said.

The US finished its fourth strategic dialogue with Kuwait last month, and Washington held its first with the UAE in October, after the Accord was signed.

It also came after a strategic dialogue between the US and Saudi Arabia, during which Mr Pompeo publicly urged Riyadh to normalise ties with Israel.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday along with Avi Berkowitz, US President Donald Trump’s envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Brian Hook, the State Department’s former co-ordinator for Iran policy.

Mr Kushner and his team will arrive in Qatar this week as part of their bid to address the Gulf dispute.