Following are excerpts from an interview given by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled Bin Ahmad Muhammad Aal Khalifa, which was broadcast on Al-Arabiya TV on November 16, 2005.
Interviewer: How far would you go in your relations with Israel?
Khalifa: We have a free trade agreement with the United States. This agreement is important to us, and if we use it in the best way, it will be very beneficial, and will improve the lives of many Bahraini citizens.
The agreement came before the American Congress. When we had presented the agreement to the Bahraini parliament, it was clear. It did not include any mentioned or relations with Israel. But in the American Congress, there are, of course, people who are familiar with what goes on in this region. They pointed out that the boycott is incompatible with WTO principles - which is true - and that it is incompatible with many other principles. They said that unless Bahrain lifts the boycott, it would be difficult to pass an agreement that violates WTO principles.
We have reached a crossroads. Either the boycott or the agreement. No, either (protecting) the interests of our citizens, providing them better lives and job opportunities - Bahraini citizens are constantly looking for work - or to maintain the office (monitoring the boycott), where only a few people work, and many citizens don't even know it exists, and they boycott (Israeli products) not because of the office. Put yourself in the position of a decision-maker - What option is better?
I lived in America as a student. I lived in America for 17 years. I lived there as a student and as a diplomat in the embassy. I have many friends in the United States. 9/11, the day of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, was a very painful day for me. It was a very sad day for me, especially because I knew the crime was committed by Arabs.
America is a friendly country towards Bahrain. It was not I who started the relations with America, because I'm "pro-American." Our relations with America date back to the 19th century.