Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Thursday announced that he had met his Bahrain counterpart publicly during a visit to Washington, DC the first meeting between the two countries that do not have diplomatic relations.
“Yesterday I met publicly with the Foreign Minister of Bahrain” Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Katz said in a tweet.
Israel has diplomatic relations with only two Arab countries – Egypt and Jordan – but common concerns over Iran have brought it closer to Gulf nations in recent years.
In a photograph accompanying the tweet the two foreign ministers appear side by side, smiling.
Yesterday I met publicly with the Foreign Minister of Bahrain 🇧🇭 @khalidalkhalifa at the @statedept Ministerial on Religious Freedom
Another example of our growing diplomatic connections
I will continue to work with @IsraeliPM to advance Israel’s relations with the Gulf countries pic.twitter.com/EElPlWbwiZ
— ישראל כ”ץ Israel Katz (@Israel_katz) July 18, 2019
According to an Israeli Foreign Ministry statement, the “meeting was coordinated behind the scenes by the US State Department as part of a conference on religious liberty organised in Washington by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo”.
The two men “addressed the subject of Iran and regional threats as well as cooperation between states and agreed to continue…,” it added.
Gulf Arab nations have increasingly found common cause with Israel due to their shared hostility towards Iran. Tehran is accused of wanting to extend its influence in the region and of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
Last month, Bahrain hosted a conference to discuss what the US has described as the economic part of President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”, his proposal for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The meeting comes at a time of mounting tensions in the Gulf region between the United States and Iran which has been slapped with a raft of sanctions by the Trump administration.
On Thursday, the US military shot down an Iranian drone on that came within 1,000 yards (914 metres) of one of its naval vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, Trump said.
Last week, a British warship in the Gulf warned off armed Iranian boats that tried to stop a UK supertanker. London has since announced the deployment of two more warships to the Gulf region for the coming months.
The US’s largest naval base in the Middle East is located in Bahrain.