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Tuesday Jan 19 2021
By
AFP

On last full day in office, Trump decorates Bahrain king with rare award

By
AFP
President Trump and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa meet in Riyadh. — Reuters/File
  • US President Donald Trump bestows a rare award on King Hamad of Bahrain
  • Trump conferred the same award on King Mohammed VI of Morocco last week for his move to restore ties
  • Just across the Gulf from Iran, Bahrain is a longstanding Western ally that is home to the US Fifth Fleet


DUBAI: Acknowledging the Gulf state's normalisation of ties with Israel on his last full day in office, US President Donald Trump bestowed a rare award on King Hamad of Bahrain on Tuesday.

Trump, who sees Arab recognition of Israel as a key overseas achievement of his presidency, already conferred the same award on King Mohammed VI of Morocco last week for his move to restore ties.

Announcing his bestowal of the Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, on King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Trump also paid tribute to Bahrain's hosting of a June 2019 conference on the economic dimensions of his controversial Middle East peace plan, which broke with decades of international consensus and was boycotted by the Palestinians.

"King Hamad has shown extraordinary courage and leadership through his support of the Vision for Peace and his decision to establish full diplomatic relations with the State of Israel," the official Bahrain News Agency quoted Trump as saying.

"King Hamad has challenged old assumptions about the possibility for peace in the region, and in doing so, positively reshaped the landscape of the Middle East for generations," Trump added.

Just across the Gulf from Iran, Bahrain is a longstanding Western ally that is home to the US Fifth Fleet.

Read more: Morocco agrees to recognise Israel under US-brokered deal

In 2011, with support from neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the Sunni ruling family crushed month-long Shiite-led protests for an elected prime minister.

It has since banned the two main opposition parties and thrown dozens of dissidents in jail.

The Legion of Merit is a military award that was created to honour allied leaders in World War II and had gone into obscurity until it was revived by Trump, who last month also presented it to the prime ministers of Australia, India, and Japan.

Washington also decorated Gulf ally Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, Doha said in a statement.

Sheikh Mohammed oversaw talks between Washington and the Taliban that resulted in a landmark force withdrawal agreement that Trump has claimed as a key foreign policy victory as he sought to draw down America's "forever wars".

On Wednesday at noon, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in and the Trump presidency will be over.