Israeli official takes part in Bahrain anti-Iran maritime security conference amid increasing normalisation

Israeli official takes part in Bahrain anti-Iran maritime security conference amid increasing normalisation
A senior Israeli foreign ministry official took part in a maritime security conference in Bahrain amid condemnation from Hamas and Iran.
2 min read
21 October, 2019
Israeli foreign ministry official Dana Benvenisti attended the Bahrain conference [Getty]
Iran and Hamas have condemned Israel’s participation in a US-led maritime security meeting which was held on Sunday in Bahrain, amid increasing normalisation between the Jewish state and Gulf countries.

The head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s counter-terrorism department, Dana Benvenisti, attended the Maritime and Aviation Security Working Group in Manama, in a rare case of an Israeli official visiting Bahrain.

Bahrain and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations, but Gulf Arab states and Israel are increasingly normalising relations cooperating against a perceived threat from Iran.

The Manama conference is a follow-up to the February 2019 US-led Middle East Conference in Warsaw, which focused on Iranian influence and alleged sponsorship of terrorism in the region.

The US is trying to form a maritime coalition to secure sea trade routes after a series of attacks on tankers in the Gulf which were blamed on Iran.

Iran denies any involvement. An Iranian tanker was also hit by a missile strike in the Red Sea off the Saudi port of Jeddah earlier this month.

Read more: Israeli minister seeking non-aggression pact with Gulf Arab states

“Aviation and maritime security are at top of the policy agenda in the region,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa told the opening session of the conference.

However, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi took issue with the participation of a “Zionist delegation” at the conference, saying, “it’s unfortunate that a country which calls itself Islamic is normalising relations with the Zionist entity [Israel]. Iran condemns this act.”

Hamas also condemned Israel’s participation, saying that “parties who normalise relations with the [Israeli] occupation” are responsible for Israeli acts of aggression against Palestinians.

Over 60 countries are participating in the maritime security conference. Iran was not invited.

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