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Bahrain FM hints at normalising ties with Israel

Bahrain's foreign minister gave an unprecedented interview to an Israeli television channel. [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 June, 2019

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Bahrain's foreign minister has given an unprecedented interview to an Israeli television channel calling for 'peace' with Israel and urging 'better relations' with the country.
Bahrain's foreign minister has given an unprecedented interview to an Israeli television channel calling for "peace" with Israel and urging "better relations" with the country.

Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa spoke to Israel's Channel 13 on the sidelines of the Trump administration's Mideast peace conference in Manama on Wednesday.

Al Khalifa said that "Israel is part of this heritage of this whole region, historically. So, the Jewish people have a place amongst us."

"Communication needs to be a prerequisite for solving all the dispute. We should talk."

The Bahraini foreign minister also voiced support for Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in neighboring Syria, saying "every country has a right to defend itself."

Khalifa said the Palestinian Authority had made a "mistake" by not attending the conference.

The Palestinian Authority boycotted the "Peace to Prosperity" workshop, accusing the unabashedly pro-Israel US President Donald Trump of dangling the prospect of cash to try to impose political solutions, and of ignoring the fundamental issue of Israeli occupation.

In an interview with The Times of Israel, Khalifa also appeared to recognise Israel's right to exist, saying: "Israel is a country in the region… and it's there to stay, of course."

The Bahraini foreign minister also said "we know our brothers in the region do believe in it" as well.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab nations to have signed peace deals with Israel.

But Bahrain and other Gulf Arab states have found common cause with Israel due to their tense relationships with Iran.

Diplomatic correspondents from six Israeli media outlets - the newspapers Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, Channel 12 and Channel 13 and the website The Times of Israel - were invited to the conference.

Their apparently unprecedented visit is facilitated by the involvement of the United States, an ally of both countries, which do not have diplomatic relations.

Israelis are normally barred from most Arab countries, except when they enter on second passports.

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