Oct 18, 2020 - World

Israel and Bahrain sign agreement establishing diplomatic relations

Israeli and Bahraini officials bump elbows
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani (R) and Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat bump elbows after a signing ceremony. Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

MANAMA, Bahrain — Israel and Bahrain signed an agreement on establishing diplomatic relations in Manama on Sunday, one month after a historic ceremony at the White House.

Why it matters: The "joint communique on establishing peaceful and diplomatic relations" is an interim agreement on the path to a comprehensive peace treaty, paving the way for the two countries to open embassies and sign more cooperation agreements.

The state of play: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House envoy Avi Berkowitz were in attendance at the signing alongside Bahrain's foreign minister and Israel's national security adviser.

  • Mnuchin and Berkowitz arrived in Manama together with an Israeli delegation on the first direct flight of an Israeli airliner to Bahrain — El Al Flight 973, a reference to Bahrain's telephone code.
  • Israeli and Bahraini officials held talks for several hours and inked eight memorandums of understanding (MOU) on visas, trade, agriculture, investments, direct flights, finance and investments.
  • Mnuchin stood by as officials signed the MOUs alongside the agreement on diplomatic relations.

What they're saying: "Today is just a first step for Israel, Bahrain and the U.S. and an important step for strengthening stability in the region. We have a big opportunity in security, in trade, in travel and in many other fields," Mnuchin said.

What's next: Minutes after the signing ceremony, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official handed the Bahraini foreign minister a diplomatic note with a formal request for opening an Israeli embassy in Manama. Israeli officials told me they want to open the new embassy before the end of the year.

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