Israel premier announces normalisation deal with Bahrain

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Jerusalem (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Friday evening a normalisation deal between his country and Bahrain, less than a month after agreeing with the UAE to establish diplomatic ties.

"Citizens of Israel, I am moved to be able to tell you that this evening, we are reaching another peace agreement with another Arab country, Bahrain. This agreement adds to the historic peace with the United Arab Emirates," Netanyahu said in a Hebrew-language statement.

Speculation among Israeli media had been rife since early on Friday evening that a deal with Bahrain had been secured.

The deal, announced also by US President Donald Trump and confirmed by a senior Bahraini official, means that Bahrain becomes the second Gulf state and the fourth Arab nation to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

Egypt made peace with the Jewish state in 1979 and Jordan did so in 1994.

The UAE and Israel announced they would establish diplomatic relations on August 13.

In the wake of that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo embarked on a regional tour, seeking to convince countries including Bahrain, Sudan and Oman to follow suit.

A high-level Israeli source had this week suggested to a AFP that a deal with Bahrain was the closest to being secured.

A small Gulf oil monarchy, Bahrain participated in a January ceremony in Washington when Trump unveiled his Middle East peace plan, which in effect gave a green light to Israeli annexation of large swathes of the occupied West Bank.

Under the normalisation agreement with the UAE, Israel agreed to suspend its planned annexations in the West Bank -- but Netanyahu has insisted the plans remain on the table.