Israeli Foreign Minister Seeks to Normalize Ties with Additional Arab Countries
In a significant move towards normalizing ties with more Arab countries, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen recently met with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. The meeting, held at Manama’s Gudaibiya Palace, aimed to strengthen economic and civil connections between Israel and Bahrain.
During the meeting, Cohen emphasized the importance of finalizing a free trade agreement between the two nations. This would further enhance trade relations, which currently stand at around $50 million annually. The Israeli diplomat also inaugurated Israel’s new embassy in Manama, marking a milestone in the bilateral relationship. Previously, the embassy had operated from a temporary location.
Notably, Cohen intended to meet with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, but a change in plans led to the meeting with the Crown Prince. The reason for this change has not been disclosed. Additionally, Cohen had a separate meeting with his Bahraini counterpart, Abdullatif Al Zayani. Although differences emerged over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the importance of a two-state solution, both ministers expressed a desire to expand ties in investment, trade, and other areas of cooperation.
The discussions during the meeting also touched upon regional security issues, with a particular focus on the Iranian threat. This highlights the shared concerns of Israel and Bahrain regarding regional stability.
Cohen’s visit to Bahrain is significant as it is one of the first visits by a senior Israeli official to openly engage with Israel’s Abraham Accords partners since the new government came to power. The Abraham Accords, which were signed last year, led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and both Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), followed by Morocco. However, public support for these agreements has been declining in these countries.
The visit from Cohen comes amidst recent warming relations between Bahrain and Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to visit Dubai soon and has received an invitation from the King of Morocco. These developments signify a growing momentum in the efforts to normalize ties between Israel and Arab nations.
It is worth noting that Cohen’s visit follows a recent controversy surrounding his meeting with Libya’s foreign minister and strained relations between Netanyahu and his foreign minister. Therefore, Cohen’s visit to Bahrain holds significant importance in reaffirming Israel’s commitment to expanding diplomatic relations in the region.
Overall, Cohen’s visit to Bahrain signifies Israel’s determination to strengthen ties with additional Arab countries and further the process of normalization in the region. By focusing on economic and civil connections, as well as addressing regional security concerns, Israel aims to build a more stable and prosperous future with its Arab neighbors.
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