Israel, Bahrain formalise ties
First Emirati passenger flight lands in Israel
MANAMA, Oct 19: Israel and Bahrain cemented a deal officially establishing relations and signed seven memorandums of understanding on Sunday, further opening up the wealthy Gulf region to the Jewish state.
The documentation was signed at a ceremony in the presence of other international dignitaries and reporters, an AFP correspondent said, fleshing out a US-brokered deal the two nations had agreed to at the White House on September 15.
The Israeli delegation, led by National Security Council chief Meir Ben Shabbat, had travelled to Manama from Tel Aviv on the first direct flight between the two countries.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Donald Trump's special assistant for international negotiations, Avi Berkowitz, had travelled to Tel Aviv before joining the Israeli delegation's flight to Manama.
But Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, as well as the crown prince and prime minister, were absent from the ceremony, the AFP correspondent said.
On Sunday, the two nations' officials agreed to establish peaceful diplomatic relations and cooperate in the fields of the economy, civil aviation, finance, communications and agriculture, Israel's foreign ministry said in a statement.
It also said it would cooperate with Bahrain's foreign ministry and noted that the two nations had agreed Sunday on the exemption of visa requirements for diplomats.
Bahrain's foreign minister, Abdullatif al-Zayani, said that the decision to normalise ties comes from the "belief in the values of tolerance... in a region whose people have suffered from wars and conflicts".
Meanwhile, the first ever passenger flight from the United Arab Emirates to Israel landed near Tel Aviv on Monday, a month after the countries signed an agreement normalising ties.
Etihad Airways flight EY 9607 from Abu Dhabi landed at Ben Gurion airport early in the morning with only crew on board, a spokeswoman for the Israel Airports Authority told AFP.
The plane picked up Israeli tourism professionals, who would be flying to the UAE for a two-day trip visit organised by Israeli company Maman Group, the spokeswoman said.
The UAE carrier said it had made "history".
"Etihad has become the first Gulf airline to operate a passenger flight to Israel. And this is only the beginning," the airline said on Twitter. -AFP