Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu says he will visit Bahrain soon

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reported to have secretly travelled to Saudi Arabia for talks on Nov 22, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (REUTERS) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday (Nov 24) he would visit Bahrain "soon" at the invitation of the Gulf state's Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa.

Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in normalising ties with Israel in a deal brokered by the United States that marked a strategic Middle East alignment against Iran. The shift has enraged the Palestinians, who have demanded statehood before any such regional rapprochement.

"We are both excited to bring the fruits of peace to our people and countries in such a short time. That's why he (al-Khalifa) invited me to come soon for a formal visit in Bahrain and I will do this happily," Mr Netanyahu said in a statement about a phone call he held with the crown prince.

A first Bahraini delegation visited Israel last Wednesday.

On Monday, an Israeli official and local media said Mr Netanyahu had secretly travelled to Saudi Arabia on Sunday for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in what would be the first publicly confirmed visit there by an Israeli leader.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud denied such talks took place. Mr Netanyahu did not confirm or deny the reports.

Since September, the Trump administration has brokered agreements with Bahrain, the UAE and Sudan towards normalising their relations with Israel. An Israeli delegation travelled to Sudan on Monday.

Although White House officials have said more countries are considering normalising ties with Israel, further developments appear unlikely before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan 20 and establishes his administration's policy on Iran.

Mr Biden has said he would rejoin the nuclear accord that world powers signed with Iran if it first resumed strict compliance with the deal, and would work with allies to strengthen its terms.

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