MANAMA: Israel’s foreign minister agreed on Monday with his Bahraini counterpart to boost trade relations during his first visit to one of the two Gulf Arab states to build ties with Israel.
“The foreign minister and I agreed that we should cooperate in increasing the number of direct flights, tourism, the volume of trade, investments,” said Eli Cohen during the ceremony for the opening of the new Israeli embassy.
The embassy in the capital, Manama, will replace the first embassy Israel opened in 2021, a year after it established diplomatic relations with Bahrain under the US-brokered Abraham Accords.
As part of the agreement, Israel also established ties with the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.
Monday’s ceremony was attended by Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, who said the event represented “a shared commitment to strengthening and nurturing bilateral relations”.
“As we build on deeper diplomatic efforts and engage in bilateral cooperation in various sectors, the establishment of this new embassy assumes a key role in our cooperation,” he told reporters.
Cohen arrived in Bahrain on Sunday accompanied by a business delegation of more than 30 companies involved in high technology, logistics and real estate.
Earlier on Monday, he met with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and discussed “the importance of advancing a free trade agreement and projects to connect youth in Israel and Bahrain,” Cohen posted on X, formerly Twitter.
“We look forward to expanding the circle of peace and normalization to other countries in the area,” he said.
Despite now having permanent ties with Israel, Bahrain and the UAE have joined other Gulf Arab states in issuing a series of condemnations against Israel this year.
The attack on Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque and attacks by Israeli forces on Nablus and the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin in the occupied West Bank were among Israeli moves that sparked outrage in the Gulf.
However, Cohen’s trip coincides with growing speculation about an imminent normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which is not a signatory to the Abraham Accords.
Riyadh and Washington discussed Saudi conditions for moving forward on normalization with Israel, according to people briefed on the meetings.
In Bahrain, Cohen also visited the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet base to discuss maritime security cooperation, according to a statement from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT).
The visit “underscores our expanding partnership with Israel,” said NAVCENT Commander Vice Admiral Brad Cooper.
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