President Trump Friday tweeted a joint statement issued by the US, Bahrain, and Israel that revealed: "President Donald J. Trump, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke today and agreed to the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain." Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani will attend the September 15 White House ceremony in which the UAE and Israel will sign their peace agreement and plans to sign a separate "Declaration of Peace" between Bahrain and Israel. While al-Zayani stressed Friday that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict's resolution must adhere to the Arab Peace Initiative, which would award East Jerusalem to a Palestinian state, the joint statement included an Israeli affirmation to ensure "all Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque." This suggests Bahrain has made peace with the idea of Israel controlling East Jerusalem, where the al-Aqsa Mosque is located, for the time being. Indeed, the Palestinian Authority released a statement condemning today's American-Bahraini-Israeli declaration as "a betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause" and recalled its ambassador to Bahrain for consultations. Turkey's Foreign Ministry lambasted Bahrain normalizing ties with Israel, alleging that "it will further encourage Israel to continue illegitimate practices towards Palestine and its efforts to make the occupation of Palestinian lands permanent." Hossein Amirabdollahian, Special Aide to the President of the Iranian Parliament, tweeted: "Bahraini regime's compromise w/ #Israel is a great betrayal to the Islamic cause & Palestinians. The imprudent leaders in UAE, #Bahrain must not pave the way for the Zionist schemes."
Ankara Friday slammed a joint communiqué issued after a Thursday summit of seven EU members with Mediterranean coastlines that threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it continued illegal drilling and oil/gas exploration in Cypriot and Greek waters. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the communiqué is "biased, disconnected from reality and lacks a legal basis." The present crisis in the eastern Mediterranean began on August 10 when Ankara dispatched the seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis, accompanied by Turkish warships, to the Greek continental shelf to search for oil and gas deposits. Greece responded by sending its own warships to monitor the Turkish flotilla's activity and conducting joint training exercises off Crete with the French navy. Then, on August 16, the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) communicated the Yavuz drillship and three support vessels would continue operating in waters claimed by Cyprus between August 18 and September 15.
To reduce the likelihood of this standoff culminating in violence, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg advocated NATO-mediated talks "to establish mechanisms for military de-confliction." Although Stoltenberg announced on September 3 that Athens and Ankara agreed to hold such talks, the following day Greece asserted it would not participate in negotiations until Turkey withdrew its warships from contested maritime areas. Accordingly, NATO de-confliction talks scheduled for last Thursday saw Greece merely submit answers to Stoltenberg's proposals for the de-confliction mechanism and refusing any contact with the Turkish delegation. Hami Aksoy responded Friday, "We invite Greece to give up of its maximalist maritime jurisdiction claims, which are in violation of international law. In a bid to de-escalation, it's indispensable for Greece to withdraw its warships around our Oruc Reis research vessel, for it to support NATO's de-confliction initiative, and to stop the militarization of eastern Aegean islands." The "maximalist maritime jurisdiction claims" to which he refers is an exclusive economic zone agreement signed by Greece and Egypt last month covering Mediterranean waters containing oil and gas reserves and whose boundaries overlap with those established by a deal Turkey and Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord clinched last November.
Manhattan federal Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn on Thursday directed Riyadh to make 24 current and former Saudi officials available for depositions regarding their knowledge of the events leading up to the September 11th attacks. These officials include then Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud along with his chief of staff, Mussaed Ahmed al-Jarrah. Family members of 9/11 victims are seeking billions of dollars in damages from Saudi Arabia on the supposition that some Saudi officials knowingly assisted the perpetrators. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), passed over President Obama's veto in 2016, narrowed the parameters of sovereign immunity, potentially making the Kingdom liable to pay damages if evidence of Saudi government involvement in the attacks were ever discovered.
On Thursday, delegations from Libya's rival governments – the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) – meeting in Morocco announced progress in determining criteria for appointments to eventually reunited national institutions, such as the central bank, National Oil Corporation, and military. HoR MP Idris Omran said that the delegations will reconvene in the last week of September. Meanwhile, demonstrations against low living standards and government corruption have spread across Libya, forcing the HoR to convene an emergency session Friday, during which it promised to investigate "suspected corruption" and expedite municipal elections. While Amnesty International documented GNA forces using heavy machine-guns to disperse demonstrators, police in areas under the HoR's control have so far held their fire.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum