Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is trying to finalize a free-trade agreement during his first official visit to Bahrain, which normalized ties with Jerusalem in 2020 under the auspices of the Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords.
The visit was planned “in order to continue building, expanding and deepening the [bilateral] friendship … while strengthening agreements in the economic and trade fields,” Cohen said in an interview with the local Al-Ayyam newspaper published on Monday.
“Our vision of the Middle East is one in which people live in peace and security. The goal is to ensure economic prosperity and create a new reality,” he added.
In June, Israeli Ambassador to Bahrain Eitan Na’eh told JNS that the island kingdom can serve as a gateway to ties with other regional Arab countries.
“There is a potential here to widen our connections not only with Bahrain but to the [other] Arab Gulf states,” said Na’eh. “Bahrain can be the point of connection between East and West.”
On Monday, Cohen met with Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa at Manama’s Gudaibiya Palace. The two men discussed “regional challenges and the commitment of the two countries to the fight against terrorism, extremism and violence in order to create an atmosphere that will allow the expansion of the circle of peace,” according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry readout.
Jerusalem said its top diplomat stressed the importance of promoting ties between the two nations through the free-trade agreement and “projects to connect young Israelis and Bahrainis.”
Cohen also met with U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain Steven Bondy and Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Vice Adm. Brad Cooper at the Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain.
The top Israeli diplomat is to inaugurate the permanent home of the Israeli embassy in the Gulf kingdom and sign a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) between the countries.
Cohen was welcomed in Manama on Sunday night by his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani.
Last year, then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog traveled to Bahrain on separate trips, in the first state visits by an Israeli head of government and head of state to the kingdom.
In March, an Israeli parliamentary delegation traveled to Bahrain to participate in a conference of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)—the largest inter-parliamentary organization in the world with 179 member national parliaments, including the Knesset, as well as 13 regional parliaments as associate members.
The Abraham Accords also saw Israel establish relations with the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan.
U.S.-brokered talks are in full swing to forge a normalization agreement between Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia, a development Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said would constitute a “quantum leap” towards regional peace.