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Ashkenazi to be first Israeli minister to visit Bahrain next month


Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi is set to be the first Israeli minister to make an official visit to Bahrain, after accepting an invitation from Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani said, who led the first-ever delegation from his country to Israel on Wednesday.Ashkenazi agreed to attend the 2020 Manama Dialogue, a summit of ministers from across the region on December 4-6 hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.“I promise to come to Manama very soon to continue our constructive dialogue started today and to promote conversation between our countries and leaders,” he said.Ashkenazi also expressed hope that Israel would open its embassy to Bahrain by then.Following his meeting with Ashkenazi, Al Zayani gave Ashkenazi a formal request to open an embassy in Israel, and announced that Manama had approved Jerusalem’s request to do the same in Bahrain.Last month, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat led an Israeli delegation to Bahrain, and lower-level Israeli officials, including Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar visited the Gulf state in 2019, but Ashkenazi’s will be the highest-level Israeli visit and the first by a minister.Al Zayani pointed out that former Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat visited Jerusalem 43 years ago nearly to the day, “planting the seeds of peace that we are further nurturing today. It is fitting that I am making this visit so near to that anniversary.”

Bahrain is convinced of the importance of peace and believes in mutual respect and acceptance Al Zayani said, following a meeting with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.The Bahraini Foreign Minister said he was “encouraged…by the genuinely open and constructive atmosphere in which our discussion took place. There is a clear keenness on both sides to make this cooperation work and to demonstrate this can have clear, positive benefits for our countries and the region.”Al Zayani commended “the seriousness of both sides to take this process forward and achieve tangible results…to have a better, more peaceful, more secure and more prosperous Middle East.”At one point in his remarks, Al Zayani stumbled over Ashkenazi’s name, and then explained that it was because “he always asks me to call him Gabi.”Ashkenazi disclosed that he and Al Zayani “have been speaking for a couple of months now and have become close friends.“It’s an exciting moment to meet a friend for the first time, face-to-face here in Israel,” he added.Ashkenazi touted the major change in the Middle East in recent months, since the Abraham Accords were first announced, and said Al Zayani’s visit symbolizes “the peace that all of Israel has dreamed of.”“We agreed to call ourselves the guardians of peace, of this new baby born as peace,” he said.The foreign minister quoted Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which said the nascent state would “extend [its] hand to [its] neighbor states and their people in an offer of peace.”“[First] prime minister David Ben-Gurion’s vision is coming true before our eyes,” Ashkenazi said. “Together, Israel and Bahrain will create a better future for our people and our children…The region has known too many conflicts, too many wars. It’s time for peace.”

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