Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid Ben Ahmed al-Khalifah speaks to the press upon his arrival to the Peace to Prosperity workshop in the Bahraini capital Manama, on June 25, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Manama: Bahrain’s foreign minister has given an unprecedented interview to an Israeli television channel, calling for open communication with the Jewish state.

Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa spoke to Israel’s Channel 13 on the sidelines of the Trump administration’s Mideast peace conference in Manama.

Al Khalifa says that “Israel is part of this heritage of this whole region, historically. So, the Jewish people have a place amongst us.”

The Bahraini foreign minister voiced support for Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in neighbouring Syria, saying “every country has a right to defend itself.”

He called Iran a “major threat to the stability and the security of the region,” and said Iran’s support for militant groups have hindered Arab-Israeli peace efforts.

Shaikh Khalid meanwhile said the workshop offered a key chance for peace in the Middle East.

The two-day Manama workshop marked the economic portion of a long-touted US plan for Palestinian-Israeli peace, but was boycotted by Palestinians who accuse Washington of bias to Israel.

“It was a regrettable matter because the presence of Palestinian brothers was important,” he said in remarks to Al Arabiya and Russia Today televisions in Manama.

“It [the workshop] is an important chance to improve the atmosphere to reach peace and launch ambitious, gigantic projects linking the Palestinian areas and developing the infrastructure facilities, education and health,” he added.

The US plan envisages pumping $ 50 billion in investment into the ailing Palestinian economy over 10 years and setting up a transportation link between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip being separated by Israel.

The Bahraini official described participation in the “Prosperity to Peace” workshop in Manama as very good.

“There was major representation from the important countries in the region that were represented by government delegates. There were also representatives from the World Bank, the IMF – both represented by their heads –financing institutions and big-name businessmen,” he said. “In fact, I see a very good representation that makes us feel comfortable after tiring efforts in preparation and organisation made by the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

Khalid denied that the event signaled normal ties with Israel, which only has diplomatic ties with two Arab countries: Egypt and Jordan.

“The workshop is aimed at improving the economic situation of the region’s countries, particularly the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories. There is nothing now regarding a peace plan with Israel,” he said.

The Palestinian leaders have rejected the US plan, saying it ignores core political issues in the decades-old conflict with Israel, including the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian statehood and the repatriation of refugees.