Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah have held an official meeting during a visit to the United States, the first ever public meeting of this kind between Tel Aviv and Manama.
“Yesterday I met publicly with the foreign minister of Bahrain,” Katz said in a tweet on Thursday.
Katz added that he “will continue to work with the Israeli prime minister to advance Israel’s relations” with the Persian Gulf countries.
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries that maintain official diplomatic relations with Israel. However, in the past years, some other Arab governments have become interested in getting closer to Tel Aviv amid common concerns over Iran.
Also in Katz’s tweet, there was a picture of the two foreign ministers showing them standing side by side while smiling.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that the meeting was “coordinated behind the scenes by the US State Department as part of a conference on religious liberty organized in Washington by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”
The subject of Iran and regional threats as well as cooperation between states were among the top issues discussed in the agenda, the Israeli statement added.
Persian Gulf Arab nations have increasingly found common cause with Israel due to their shared hostility towards Iran.
The Bahraini FM said in late June that Manama wants “peace” and “better” relations with Tel Aviv.
The top Bahraini official said his country recognized Israel’s “right to existence,” saying the regime was “there to stay, of course.”
“Who did we offer peace to [with] the [Arab] Peace Initiative?…We offered it to Israel,” he said. “We want better relations with it, and we want peace with it.”
The Arab initiative, which has been adopted by the Arab League, calls for the normalization of ties between Tel Aviv and Arab states in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from lands it occupied in the 1967 war, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem al-Quds and Syria’s Golan Heights.
Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are also known to have secretly developed expansive ties with Tel Aviv over the past years, encouraging other Arab countries to also follow suit.
Israeli media reported in late January that UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Persian Gulf country’s national security adviser had paid a not-so-secret visit to Israel with a direct flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv.
The trip came a few days after Pompeo took a tour of regional countries in a bid to unite Arab countries and the Israeli regime against Iran.
The US top diplomat has been promoting President Donald Trump’s vision for an “Arab NATO” alliance with cooperation from Israel.
The meeting on Thursday coincided with mounting tensions between Tehran and Washington in the Persian Gulf region.