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Israeli minister receives 'personal invitation' for Bahrain conference

Economy minister Eli Cohen pictured with Israeli PM Netanyahu during a press conference. [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 November, 2018

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Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen says he was invited to a conference in Bahrain next year, the latest sign of warming ties between Israel and Gulf States.

Israel's minister of economy on Monday revealed he had been invited to attend a conference next year in Bahrain, describing the move as part of Israel's burgeoning relations with Arab states.

"I myself received a personal invitation to Bahrain," Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen said in an interview with Army Radio.

Cohen said the conference scheduled for early 2019 would cover "technology and high-tech, in which the State of Israel is certainly a leader".

An Israeli official told Reuters that Cohen had been invited to the Startup Nations Ministerial conference on 15 April, a forum for public policymakers to discuss how to promote entrepreneurs.

He did not say whether he planned to attend or not.

Israel's Channel 10 on Monday reported that Israel is currently making efforts to establish relations with Bahrain and Muslim states in Africa.

Hani Marzouk, spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister's Office for Arab media, said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is also expected to visit Bahrain.

"The Kingdom of Bahrain is the next destination for Netanyahu," Marzouk said, according to Al Jazeera.

Bahrain is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Netanyahu made a surprise visit to the Gulf sultanate of Oman last month - the first in more than 20 years by an Israeli premier.

The surprise meeting with Oman's Sultan Qaboos was kept secret until Netanyahu's return home. It took place despite the two nations having no diplomatic ties.

Following Netanyahu's visit, Israeli ministers visited the UAE and Oman.

Israel currently has full diplomatic relations with only Egypt and Jordan, but the trips are the latest sign of growing regional ties between Israel and Arab States.

Israel and some Gulf States - notably Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain - have a shared interest in curbing Iran's influence in the region and cooperate on intelligence gathering.

In the past two years, a series of reports of covert meetings between Israeli and Saudi officials give an impression of a rapprochement between the two states.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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