Bahrain said on Wednesday it was committed to the creation of a Palestinian state in talks with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo, implicitly rejecting his push for Arab countries to swiftly normalise ties with Israel.
Pompeo was in Manama as part of a Middle East trip aimed at building more ties between the Jewish state and the Arab world after a landmark US-brokered deal with the United Arab Emirates.
However, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa said he told Pompeo that his country remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative — which calls for Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied after 1967, in exchange for peace and the full normalisation of relations.
“The king stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict according to the two-state solution […] to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.
The US chief diplomat has said he is hopeful other nations will follow the UAE, which earlier this month became only the third Arab country to agree to normalise relations with the Jewish state.
Manama, whose contacts with Israel date back to the 1990s, was the first Gulf country to welcome the UAE move and was considered a front-runner to follow in its footsteps.
Like most Gulf countries, Bahrain shares with the Jewish state a common enemy in Iran, which Manama accuses of instigating protests by the nation’s Shia Muslim community against the ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty.
But the Israel rapprochement was met with criticism from some parts of the Arab world, and Bahrain — a close ally of regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia — is unlikely to establish relations without Riyadh’s blessing.
Last week, Saudi Arabia said it would not follow the UAE in establishing diplomatic ties with Israel until the Jewish state signed an internationally recognised peace accord with the Palestinians.
“Peace must be achieved with the Palestinians” on the basis of international agreements as a pre-condition for any normalisation of relations, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told reporters during a visit to Berlin.
“Once that is achieved all things are possible,” he added, in a comment that was consistent with Saudi Arabia’s previous stance on the issue.