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Bahrain FM says Israel part of region's 'heritage'

media Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifah arrives at the US-led economic conference in Bahrain on Tuesday AFP

Bahrain's foreign minister has said Israel is part of the region's heritage and the Jewish people have "a place amongst us" in a rare interview of an Arab official by an Israeli journalist.

The interview -- on the sidelines of the US-organised economic conference in Bahrain, intended to kickstart the White House's Middle East peace plan -- was broadcast late Wednesday on Israel's Channel 13 television.

Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said the interview was his "first with an Israeli media channel, and let's hope that we can get the message through."

"Israel is part of this heritage of this whole region, historically, so the Jewish people have a place amongst us," he said.

"That's why it's so important and we didn't want to miss this opportunity, and I want to tell them we should talk."

Khalifa's comments on rapprochement with Israel were unusually strong for an Arab official.

Israel has diplomatic relations with only two Arab countries -- Egypt and Jordan -- but common concerns over Iran have brought it closer to Gulf nations in recent years.

Bahrain's top diplomat also hit out at Iran in the interview, calling it "the major threat to the stability and the security of the region."

The Palestinian Authority boycotted the two-day economic conference which took place in Manama on Tuesday and Wednesday, as it views US President Donald Trump's White House as blatantly biased in favour of Israel.

But Khalifa said the Palestinians had made a "mistake" by not showing up.

"It's always a mistake to miss an opportunity to achieve peace," he said.

Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner launched the $50 billion (44 billion euro) initiative, touted by economic leaders as holding the potential to boost the Palestinians' economy.

But the PA accused Trump of dangling the prospect of cash to try to impose political solutions, and of ignoring the fundamental issue of Israeli occupation.

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