Bahrain's first official government delegation to Israel landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday on the first Gulf Air commercial flight to Tel Aviv, as the two countries look to broaden cooperation after establishing formal ties in September in a U.S.-brokered accord.
Gulf Air flight GF972 - a reference to Israel's telephone country code - took off from Manama airport in the morning bound for Tel Aviv, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani, who is leading the delegation, was greeted in Tel Aviv by his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi before departing for talks in Jerusalem.
Al-Zayani said the visit is "a strategic start to enhancing joint cooperation" between the countries, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported.
"The Middle East has witnessed conflicts and instability over the past decades," he said.
"The time has come for us to pursue other policies to reach a comprehensive solution."
Al-Zayani's trip to Israel coincides with a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The two diplomats were to hold a three-way meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Wednesday, two officials briefed on the planning said.
Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy, Avi Berkowitz, was also on the flight at the head of a U.S. delegation to Bahrain and Israel, he said on Twitter.
Israel and Bahrain were set to sign several bilateral agreements during the trip.
Last month, during an historic first visit to Manama, Israeli officials formally asked Bahrain to be allowed to open an embassy in the country.
Israel expects that the foreign minister’s delegation will formally give Israel the green light to open a mission during Wednesday’s trip.
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates established formal ties with Israel in a U.S.-brokered deal signed at the White House on Sept. 15. Sudan has since said it would also formalize relations with Israel, a former foe.
Pompeo is currently on a seven-nation tour that includes stops in France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
First published: 09:09, 11.18.20