Bahrain hosts Israeli foreign minister in highest-level visit since normalisation

Manama (Reuters) – Bahrain hosted the Israeli foreign minister on Thursday in the highest-level visit since the countries established ties last year, as the kingdom’s Gulf Air launched direct flights to Tel Aviv.

Arriving in Manama on a plane with an olive branch painted on its nose, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, and then signed five bilateral cooperation deals.

“His Majesty’s leadership and inspiration have led to true cooperation and our meeting outlined the path forward for our relationship,” Lapid said on Twitter after the palace audience.

Bahrain and Gulf neighbour United Arab Emirates normalised relations with Israel last year in a U.S.-brokered deal known as the Abraham Accords that built on common commercial interests and worries about Iran. Sudan and Morocco followed suit.

“Our opportunities are shared. Our threats are also shared, and they aren’t far from here,” Lapid said in remarks to reporters, according to a transcript issued by his office.

It said that Lapid and his Bahrain counterpart signed deals on cooperation in medicine, healthcare, sports, and on water and environmental conservation. Lapid was also due to inaugurate Israel’s embassy in Manama.