Bahrain has declined a US push to normalize relations with Israel, Al Jazeera reported Wednesday.
Bahrain told the visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it was committed to the creation of a Palestinian state, implicitly rejecting his push for Arab countries to swiftly normalize ties with Israel.
Pompeo was in Manama on Wednesday as part of a Middle East tour aimed at forging more links between Israel and the Arab world on the back of a US-brokered deal with the United Arab Emirates earlier this month.
Before Bahrain, Pompeo was in Sudan where Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Tuesday his transitional government has "no mandate" to take the step of establishing relations with Israel.
"About the US request to normalize ties with Israel, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has explained to the American minister that the current transitional government has no mandate to decide on the issues out of its transitional agenda that related to the democratic transformation, peace process and the holding of elections in 2022," the Sudan government said in a statement.
Sudan last week fired the country's foreign ministry spokesman over his remarks about normalizing relations with Israel. "I received a notice about dismissing me from my position," Haidar Badawi told Anadolu Agency. Badawi had said Khartoum was looking forward to concluding a peace agreement with Israel. "There is no reason to continue hostility between Sudan and Israel," he said.
And on Wednesday, Bahrain echoed the sentiments of its ally and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia that accord with Israel would not materialize without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
According to the official Bahrain News Agency, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa told Pompeo his country remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative - which calls for Israel's complete withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied after 1967, in exchange for peace and the full normalization of relations.
"The king stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict according to the two-state solution ... to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital," the agency reported.
Pompeo said in a Twitter post that he discussed with Bahrain's royal rulers only the "importance of building regional peace and stability" and "countering Iran's malign influence".
Manama was the first Gulf country to welcome the UAE rapprochement and was considered by some observers a frontrunner to follow in its footsteps.
But the UAE's controversial step has been met with criticism from most of the Arab world, with the Palestinian leadership condemning it as a "stab in the back" - and even US allies in the region have been cautious in their response.
Saudi Arabia, while not condemning the UAE-Israel deal, has refused to normalize ties until Israel signs an internationally recognised peace accord with the Palestinians.
Other Gulf states including Oman, Qatar and Kuwait also face barriers to warming ties with Israel, Cinzia Bianco, a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying.
She said in these countries "popular opposition towards normalization is still quite high", despite colder sentiment towards the Palestinian cause among some quarters of the youth, especially in Saudi Arabia.
Tellingly, stir created by the UAE-Israel deal subsided last week when the Sultanate of Oman replaced its Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi, who Monday spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in the wake of UAE-Israel relations.