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Iran says Israeli foreign minister's trip to Bahrain 'stains' its rulers

Israel's Yair Lapid toured the headquarters of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, which has faced off with Iranian vessels in recent years
A handout picture released by Bahrain's official news agency (BNA), shows Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (R) welcoming Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Bahraini capital Manama, on 30 September 2021 (AFP)

Iran on Friday slammed a visit by Israel's foreign minister to Bahrain, calling it a "stain" on the Gulf Arab state's rulers that "will not be erased".

In remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid's meeting with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and other senior officials showed that Bahrain overlooked the plight of the Palestinians.

Lapid met Bahrain's king and crown prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa on Thursday, before cutting the ribbon at the Israeli embassy in Manama.

Bahrain and the UAE normalised relations with Israel last September during the final months of the Trump administration. Morocco and Sudan followed suit not long after.

Following the agreements, the Trump administration validated Morocco's claim to the contested Western Sahara region. Sudan was removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, and the UAE secured a deal for advanced F-35 fighter jets. But that deal was subsequently frozen by the Biden administration. 

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On Thursday, Lapid reportedly toured Bahrain's headquarters of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, which has faced off with Iranian vessels in recent years.

"We condemn any scheme that bolsters Israel's destructive presence in the region," Khatibzadeh said. "It is unfortunate that Bahrain's rulers ignore the Zionist regime's daily crimes against the oppressed but resilient people of Palestine," he said, referring to Israel.

"This stain will not be erased from the reputation of Bahrain's rulers. The people of the region will continue to oppose the process of normalisation of ties with the Zionist regime."

Both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, have condemned the normalisation deals as a "stab in the back" of their people.

Khatibzadeh's remarks came as Iranian forces launched a large-scale display of military power near the nation's border with Azerbaijan.

Artillery, drones and helicopters will participate in the drills, state TV reported, without elaborating on how long they would last or where exactly they would be held.  

Iran is wary of Azerbaijan in particular over its deep military cooperation with Israel, and on Thursday voiced its concerns to the Azerbaijani ambassador in Tehran Ali Alizadeh.

"We do not tolerate the presence and activity against our national security of the Zionist regime, or Israel, next to our borders," Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was quoted as saying. "And we will carry out any necessary action in this regard."