First Bahrain-US Strategic Dialogue launched

December 01, 2020
Bahrain's Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and senior officials from the two friendly countries took part in the session. — BNA photo
Bahrain's Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and senior officials from the two friendly countries took part in the session. — BNA photo

MANAMA — The opening session of the first Strategic Dialogue between Bahrain and the United States was held virtually on Tuesday.

Bahrain's Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and senior officials from the two friendly countries took part in the session.

Al-Zayani delivered his welcoming remarks and expressed appreciation for how strongly US-Bahrain relations have grown over so many decades, which proves their value to both sides.

He noted that these relations involve a full range of political, economic, security, and cultural ties, making it a truly strategic partnership.

Al-Zayani affirmed Bahrain’s vision for the next 25 years of bilateral ties, the opportunities and challenges, and the kingdom’s aspirations for broader and closer partnership across a range of issues.

The Bahraini minister noted that 2020 has brought unprecedented health, social and economic challenges across the globe due to COVID-19, pointing out in this regard that rebuilding from these will be among the defining issues of the next few years, and effective international cooperation will be critical.

He highlighted how Abraham Accords have seen a step-change in the dynamics of the Middle East, and a renewed optimism toward peace and prosperity.

Al-Zayani affirmed that these goals are central to the two countries’ shared vision, affirming also that the Bahrain-US partnership will be key to achieving them.

The minister also spoke about Bahrain’s vision for bilateral relations specifically in their security and economic aspects, and how these can contribute to the wider Middle East.

He mentioned how in the field of security for 70 years, the Bahrain-US partnership has been a bedrock of Gulf security, and from Bahrain’s perspective, it is seen as a role continuing and growing in importance.

Al-Zayani noted how security will also come under renewed challenge from parties seeking to undermine Middle Eastern stability, primarily Iran, whose malign intent and activities are more blatant than ever, pointing out its nuclear program, ballistic missiles, interference in other states to its increasingly overt involvement in conflicts.

On the economic front, the minister stressed that both countries maintain solid foundations, based on the 2004 Free Trade Agreement, but also on the shared values of transparency, open markets, fair competition, labor standards, and technology.

The minister noted that Bahrain will continue to promote these values while ensuring the countries’ dynamic, modern economy remains an attractive trade and investment proposition for the US and other companies.

He affirmed that Bahrain’s vision for the Middle East is not just security but prosperity, and prosperity in which all the region’s peoples have a stake.

Al-Zayani pointed out that it was one of the reasons the Kingdom hosted last year’s Peace to Prosperity workshop in Manama. He also noted that establishing diplomatic relations with Israel leads to genuine warm peace and the rapid development of economic, cultural, and people-to-people ties.

He stressed that Bahrain and the United States continue to deepen their economic partnership, increasing trade and investment between them while also drawing in other like-minded states to create a network of Middle East prosperity.

The Bahraini minister pointed out that there are many opportunities for further cooperation, noting for example the field of petrochemicals, where US expertise can be instrumental in tapping the significant reserves confirmed in 2018.

“There is a great scope for American partnership with Bahrain’s region-leading banking and fintech sector, while in twenty-five years Bahrain’s vision is for closer and deeper economic partnership with the United States, one which is the centerpiece of a stable, thriving region,” he said.

Al-Zayani expressed confidence that Bahrain’s ties with the United States will continue to develop strongly across the full range of their relationship and that they will be supplemented by intensified cooperation and interconnection with other like-minded regional states who share the same values and goal of a peaceful, secure and prosperous Middle East.

US Secretary of State Pompeo expressed his pleasure to kick off the first bilateral strategic dialogue, pointing out how the two countries have been working together for a long time and today is a testament to how President Trump has joined with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to make the decades-old ties even closer, for the benefit of both of nations, where historic outcomes for the entire Middle East were achieved, expressing his confidence that this dialogue and the sessions that will follow and it will lay a foundation for more successes, and an even stronger alliance.

He highlighted security, which is the focus of multiple working sessions, and that the Kingdom of Bahrain hosts the United States Naval Central Command and our Fifth Fleet’s headquarters, which allows the US to collaborate across the board, from fighting terrorism to safeguarding the passage of goods in the Gulf, free from Iran’s maritime attacks, where Tehran is the number-one threat to Gulf security.

Pompeo thanked Bahrain and its people for their steadfast support of the maximum pressure campaign, which has successfully isolated Tehran and cut off millions of dollars for Iranian malign influence and terror.

He affirmed that Bahrain and the United States share a key foreign policy insight, which is that they’re realists and see the world as it is, where both countries recognize the violent nature of the revolutionary Iranian regime.

“When it comes to countering Tehran and many other important issues, Israel is a key partner, and not a problem, all thanks to the Abraham Accords, where partnerships with Israel and the United States are now blossoming”, the US secretary of state said.

He added that there’s already more trade and investment between Bahrain and Israel in areas like telecom and financial services, where Israel greeted the first direct flight from Bahrain carrying the first cabinet-level delegation, including the Bahraini Foreign Minister.

Pompeo pointed out that the trilateral meeting built on the progress, including by opening the door for an exchange of embassies between Israel and Bahrain, affirming confidence that more countries will follow Bahrain’s leadership, showing the geographic size of a country does not dictate its influence on the world stage.

He stressed that within the next two weeks, five working groups from the State Department and other agencies will meet with their Bahraini counterparts, where discussions on facilitating further coordination between the two nations in areas like military training and on women’s empowerment, as well as standing up for human rights and combating human trafficking, pointing out that Bahrain has made tremendous progress in these areas, expressing his thanks for the longstanding bilateral relations between them.

It is worth noting that the US-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue will take place between Dec. 1, 2020, and Dec. 15, 2020, and will discuss defense cooperation, ways to enhance regional security and prosperity, economic and trade development, and common human rights goals. — Bahrain News Agency

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