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Israel normalisation: Bennett to meet UAE, Bahrain ministers in New York

The meeting will mark the first time Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has met with Gulf leaders since taking office earlier this year
The flags of US, Israel, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are projected on the ramparts of Jerusalem's Old City on 15 September 2020 (AFP/File photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will meet ministers from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, his first meetings with Gulf leaders since taking office in June.

The meetings with Bahrain's foreign minister and a UAE minister were announced by Bennett in a statement on Saturday, and will take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

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.

Last week, officials from Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco, Israel and the US took part in a virtual ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of the normalisations deals.

At the time, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington planned to "encourage more countries" to normalise relations with Israel. 

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"We want to widen the circle of peaceful diplomacy, because it is in the interests of countries across the region, and around the world, for Israel to be treated like any other country," Blinken said. 

Countries that refuse to establish relations with Israel generally do so in protest of Israel's occupation of Palestine, with recent agreements shattering a longstanding Arab consensus that there should be no normalisation with Israel until it reaches a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.

Blinken acknowledged the issue during last week's ceremony, saying: "We all must build on these relationships and growing normalisation to make tangible improvements in the lives of Palestinians, and to make progress toward the long-standing goal of advancing negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians."

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita echoed Blinken's remarks, saying normalisation was no substitute for an accord between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

"Morocco believes that there is no other alternative to a two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state," he said.

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.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who visited Dubai in June, is expected to travel to Bahrain later this month for what would mark the first such visit by an Israeli minister.