Israeli FM holds historic meetings with Bahrain’s king

MANAMA (Agencies): Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with Bahraini King Hamid bin Issa al Khalifa at the royal palace in Bahrain Thursday afternoon, the first public meeting between the king and an Israeli official.

“The leadership and inspiration of the king has led to real cooperation, and this meeting sets the course for the future of our relations,” Lapid said at the meeting.

The sit-down with the king came after Lapid met with Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the prime minister and crown prince of Bahrain, at his palace in Manama.

“Thank you for the opportunity to be here today, and to take this step together in building our relations,” said Lapid, “in a model of coexistence and cooperation between cultures and between faiths.”

It was the crown prince’s first public meeting with an Israeli official.

Lapid’s first meeting of the day was with his Bah-raini counterpart, Abdull-atif Al Zayani, whom he had met for the first time in Rome in June. They discussed ways of developing bilateral ties further, especially in security, economic, and civil society.

Lapid landed in Manama on Thursday morning for the first ministerial visit to the island kingdom since bilateral relations were formally established last year.

He also signed framework agreements on water, environment and sports, among other areas, and was set to open Israel’s embassy in Manama later in the day.

Lapid was received on the tarmac by al-Zayani.

Lapid is the first foreign minister to visit Bahrain. In 1994, Environmental Affai-rs Minister Yossi Sarid traveled to the kingdom to participate in regional talks and meet with Bahrain’s foreign minister.

Since becoming foreign minister in June, Lapid has also visited the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, two countries that Israel has normalized relations with over the past year.

The first commercial flight between Manama and Tel Aviv also took off for Israel Thursday morning shortly after Lapid landed in Bahrain. Passengers include the heads of Gulf Air and a Jewish chef named Alex, who owns a restaurant in Bahrain and is flying to Isael to see his mother and two sisters.

The Israeli foreign minister is accompanied on his trip by Foreign Ministry D-irector General Alon Ushpi-z and Deputy Director General for Middle Eastern Affairs Oded Yossef.

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