DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held closed-door meetings Wednesday with Bahrain's royal family and planned others with top officials in the United Arab Emirates amid the Trump administration's push for Arab nations to recognize Israel.
Pompeo already traveled to Israel and Sudan on this trip through the Mideast, one that included him offering a recorded message in Jerusalem supporting President Donald Trump's reelection campaign for the Republican National Convention. That speech cast aside his own advice to American diplomats to be apolitical and bulldozed a long tradition of non-partisanship by previous secretaries of state.
In Manama, Pompeo tweeted that he met with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and his son, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, on Wednesday morning.
“We discussed the importance of building regional peace and stability, including the importance of Gulf unity and countering Iran’s malign influence in the region,” Pompeo wrote.
Pompeo also said he discussed efforts to “advance greater unity among Gulf countries.” That’s as his plane flew over Qatar on its way to the United Arab Emirates, one of four Arab nations along with Bahrain now boycotting Doha over a yearslong political dispute. Typically, Bahraini and Emirati aircraft avoid Qatari airspace as they’ve closed their own airspace to Qatar Airways.
His meetings in Bahrain come after a U.S.-brokered deal announced Aug. 13 saw the United Arab Emirates and Israel open diplomatic relations.
Bahrain, a small island nation just off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, has a historic Jewish community. The kingdom has slowly encouraged ties to Israel, with two U.S.-based rabbis in 2017 saying King Hamad himself promoted the idea of ending the boycott of Israel by Arab nations. That boycott had been in place to offer Palestinians support in their efforts to form an independent state.
Bahrain is also home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet and remains a close security partner of the U.S. Pompeo arrived there Tuesday night and met Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, wearing an American-flag-colored face mask amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Pompeo landed later Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the seven-sheikhdom federation of the UAE. There, he will speak with his Emirati counterpart and others.