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Bahrain delegation in Israel for talks on ties

By AFP - Dec 01,2020 - Last updated at Dec 01,2020

TEL AVIV — A 40-strong Bahraini delegation arrived in Israel Tuesday for two days of talks on boosting economic cooperation and tourism after the two countries established relations in September.

The Gulf state of Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates in signing up to a US-brokered deal to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, becoming the third and fourth Arab countries to do so.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi had been due to visit Bahrain this week but the trip was cancelled, diplomatic sources told AFP without elaborating.

The cancellation followed the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist blamed on the Israeli spy agency, the Mossad.

Last month, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdellatif Al Zayani held talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was on a farewell visit.

The latest delegation, led by Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Bin Rashid Al Zayani, landed at Ben Gurion airport on Tuesday.

The delegation is scheduled to meet both Ashkenazi and Netanyahu on Wednesday.

The two states will also sign on Wednesday a memorandum of understanding that “includes the establishment of a bilateral forum to promote mutual tourism”, an Israeli government statement said.

Israeli Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said that over the past two months, both countries had been working “hard to turn peace from an idea to a reality”.

“The tourism MOU between the countries is an important step in that direction,” she said in the statement.

Israeli authorities did not indicate whether the delegation would visit the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site, located in East Jerusalem.

Many Palestinians are hostile to Arab governments normalising relations with Israel without a comprehensive peace deal and oppose such visits.

The Waqf, which manages Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, cannot bar any Muslim from visiting them.

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