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Bahrain backtracks, will not allow imports from Israel settlements

December 7, 2020 at 2:17 pm

Evangelical Christian volunteers harvest Chardonnay grapes for Psagot Winery in a vineyard on July 24, 2017 in the Israeli settlement of Psagot in the West Bank [David Silverman/Getty Images]

Bahrain has backtracked on a pledge to recognise goods made in illegal Israeli settlement, saying the Gulf State will refuse to import them, state news agency BNA reported on Saturday.

The island nation’s Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Al-Zayani announced last week that his country would make no distinction between products made in Israel or the illegal settlements.

Al-Zayani was quoted by Reuters on Thursday as saying: “We will treat Israeli products as Israeli products. So we have no issue with labelling or origin.”

Late on Friday, however, BNA carried a statement attributed to an official source in the ministry which backtracked on Al-Zayani’s comments.

READ: Bahrain, Israel on same front against Iran, Manama minister says

“The minister’s statement was misinterpreted and the ministry is committed to the Bahrain government’s unwavering stance regarding adherence to the resolutions of the United Nations,” BNA reported, quoting the unidentified source.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki told Reuters his Bahraini counterpart had also denied the claims during a phone call.

“The alleged comments… totally contradicted his country’s [Bahrain] supportive position of the Palestinian cause,” Reuters quested a statement from Al-Maliki’s office as saying.

Bahrain’s earlier openness to importing goods from illegal Israeli settlements was widely condemned.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement slammed the recognition of settlement goods as “war crimes”, Quds Press reported on Friday.

BDS Coordinator Mahmoud Nawajaa also condemned Bahrain, saying in a statement: “This is a flagrant deviation from the Arab and Islamic stance and makes Bahrain, according to international law, involved in Israeli crimes.”

Nawajaa added that the decision: “reveals the extent to which Bahrain is carrying out the agenda of the current US administration and that of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Bahrain normalised ties with Israel on 15 September, alongside the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in a US-brokered deal.

READ: Israel FM to visit Bahrain ‘soon’ for embassy opening

The Gulf States have claimed the agreements were conditional on ending Israeli plans to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, a claim the so-called Jewish state has denied.

European Union and until recently, US guidelines, state that settlement products should be clearly labelled as made in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

US President Donald Trump’s administration last month removed the distinction in response to an open letter penned by a group of Republican senators.

The letter urged Trump to allow goods produced in the occupied West Bank to be labelled “Made in Israel” in reversal of the long-held policy to clearly mark products from the illegal Israeli settlements as such.