10/19/2020, 11.11
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Israel and Bahrain normalize relations as US looks on

The signing took place yesterday in Manama, in the context of an official visit by a mixed Israeli-US delegation. The goal is to strengthen the regional alliance in an anti-Iranian key. Major agreements in trade, telecommunications, financial, banking and agricultural sector.

Manama (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Israel and Bahrain have signed a joint communiqué to formalize bilateral relations between the two nations in the context of the controversial "Abraham Accords" that also involve the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The signing took place yesterday during the visit of an Israeli and US delegation to Manama, with the aim of promoting the cooperation of an alliance strongly desired by Washington to counter Tehran’s influence in the region.

The Israeli delegation, which flew aboard an El Al flag carrier plane that took off from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, was accompanied by US Treasury Minister Steve Mnuchin.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayan spoke of a "historic visit" that will lead to "the opening of relations between the two countries. The Israeli delegation was led by Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz and National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Al-Zayani and Ben-Shabbat touched elbows instead of the traditional handshake to seal the pact, a further sign of the new coronavirus pandemic. The Israeli head of delegation expressed its satisfaction, speaking of a "promising start" and at the same time stressing the welcome "with open arms, warmth and cordiality".

Despite the statements of the leaders, in Bahrain (a nation ruled by a Sunni monarchy in a context with a Shiite majority) the signing of the "Abraham Accord" was opposed by internal opposition and activist groups at home and abroad.

The Manama government justified itself by stressing that the pact protects its interests from the "Iranian threat". For Al-Zayani, “commitment and collaboration” are the best and sustainable way to guarantee genuine and lasting peace in the region and “dialogue” the way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The two parties also signed several memoranda of understanding. A summary list provided by a Bahraini official reveals they cover trade, air routes, telecommunications, the financial and banking sector, the agricultural sector.

Manama also intends to officially reopen the old synagogue of Manama, in which a small Jewish community of 34 people meet, on the occasion of the Purim holiday on February 25th.

Addressing those present in Arabic upon arrival at the capital's airport, Ben-Shabbat said that Israel intends to welcome a delegation from Bahrain as soon as possible. The flight with senior Israeli and US officials on board arrived in the Arab country flying over the airspace of Saudi Arabia, which so far - despite Washington's persistent courtship - has refused to join the plan to normalize relations with Israel.

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