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UAE, Bahrain, Israel and US conduct first joint naval exercises following normalisation

The drills mark the first publicly announced military cooperation between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel since they normalised diplomatic relations in September last year
A US Navy drone flies over as Royal Bahrain Naval Force (RBNF) Abdulrahman Al Fadhel takes part in joint naval exercise between US 5th Fleet Command and Bahraini forces, on 26 October 2021 (AFP)

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are holding their first joint naval exercise with Israel, a year after normalising ties with the country, according to the United States Navy. 

The five-day exercises alongside the US in the Red Sea, which began on Wednesday, include at-sea training aboard the transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27). The naval manoeuvres focused on visit, board, search and seizure tactics. 

A statement from the US Naval Forces Central Command-US 5th Fleet said the naval exercises were intended to “enhance interoperability between participating forces”.

“It is exciting to see US forces training with regional partners to enhance our collective maritime security capabilities,” said Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command (Navcent).

“Maritime collaboration helps safeguard freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade, which are essential to regional security and stability.”

This is the first publicly announced military cooperation between the UAE and Bahrain with Israel since they began diplomatic relations in September last year. The normalisation agreements also involved Morocco and Sudan. 

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The deal, also known as the "Abraham Accords" and brokered under the Trump administration, broke years of consensus among Arab states that any official recognition of Israel must be based on the end of the occupation of Palestinian territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Before the deal was signed, only two Arab countries had agreed official ties with Israel - Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. 

While Saudi Arabia has not formally recognised ties with Israel, it has expressed its desire to improve relations with the country. 

However, Palestinian officials condemned the signing of the normalisation agreement as a “treacherous stab to the Palestinian cause” once Bahrain followed in the UAE’s footsteps and signed the deal.  

In October 2020, Sudan agreed to a US-brokered deal to normalise ties with Israel. However, the agreement still needs to be approved by Sudan’s parliament. The country's military has been widely seen as more supportive of the normalisation deal than the civilian members of Sudan's government. 

With the military coup ongoing in Sudan, an Israeli official told Israel Hayom, a popular right-wing daily, that a military takeover would aid the normalisation of ties between the two countries. 

The official said that “in light of the fact that the military is the stronger force in the country, and since Burhan is its commander in chief, the events of Monday night increase the likelihood of stability in Sudan, which has critical importance in the region”.