The two leaders met in Washington D.C. to discuss “Iran and other regional threats,” according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement.
Rabat – Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced on Thursday, July 18 that he had met his Bahraini counterpart, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa during a visit to Washington D.C. This meeting was the first between the two countries, which historically do not share diplomatic relations.
Israel holds diplomatic relations with only two Arab countries: Egypt and Jordan. The country has voiced concerns over Iran which have brought it closer to the Gulf nations in recent years.
According to an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement, the meeting was coordinated by the US State Department as part of a conference on religious liberty. It was organized in Washington by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The ministers “addressed the subject of Iran and regional threats as well as cooperation between the two states and agreed to continue,” the statement added.
Katz took to Twitter to upload a photograph of himself smiling alongside his Bahraini counterpart Khalifa.
Katz said the public meeting with the Bahraini minister was “another example of [the countries’] growing diplomatic connections.”
“I will continue to work with Benjamin Netanyahu (the Israeli Prime Minister) to advance Israel’s relations with the Gulf countries,” Katz wrote on Twitter.
Gulf Arab Nations Interests
The Gulf Arab nations share a common cause with Israel due to their hostility towards Iran. Tehran is widely accused by the Gulf states of wanting to expand its influence in the region, and of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
In June 2019, Bahrain hosted a conference to discuss what President Donald Trump has described as the economic part of the US Administration’s “deal of the century.” The ‘deal’ is a plan which aims to resolve the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict by economic means.
The meeting came at a time of escalating tensions in the Gulf region between the United States and Iran, with the latter facing the austere sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.
In an interview with The Times of Israel on the sidelines of the conference, Khalifa expressed the desire for better relations and eventually “peace” with Israel. Israel, he firmly declared, is a part of the region and “there to stay.”
He said that he would like to visit Israel in the future but was reluctant to normalize ties with Jerusalem in the absence of a peace deal.
In the meantime, Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday, July 18 that it will host a maritime and air navigation security meeting soon.
The ministry said the meeting, which will also be led by the United States and Poland, is a follow-up to a February 2019 conference held in Warsaw.
Over 60 nations would be invited to the conference, the same number that attended the Warsaw meeting earlier this year.
A lower-lever official from Israel will be invited, in what would mark a rare instance of an Israeli official visiting an Arab state for these purposes.
That conference was originally organized as part of the endeavors to counter Iran, but later focused on the achievement of stability in the Middle Eastern volatile region.
The meeting’s stated focus on air and maritime navigation comes amid rising tensions in the Gulf between the US and Iran, fueling concerns over potential Iranian attempts to impede international shipping.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stresses that this meeting will provide an opportunity for consultation and exchange of visions among many countries in the world, to find ways to deter the Iranian threat and ensure freedom of navigation in this strategic region to the world,” according to the statement released by the Bahraini Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, the US’s largest naval base in the Middle East is situated in Bahrain.