The Steering Committee met for the first time since the landmark inaugural forum was created by then- Foreign Minister Yair Lapid this past March.
By Erin Viner
Representatives from the six founding countries convened in Manama to discuss “the operative ways in which to promote cooperation in a manner that will lead to tangible achievements for the region and its people,” said a statement TV7 obtained from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
The members states include Israel, its Abraham Accords partners -the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Morocco, as well as Egypt and the United States.
The Negev Forum’s Steering Committee agreed to “to work decisively to bring security, prosperity, and stability to the Middle East,” said the statement.
The meeting is of particular importance in that it comes just ahead of US President Joe Biden’s slated visit to Israel and the Middle East 13-16 July, as part of Washington’s commitment to expanding the circle of peace.
“The convening of the Steering Committee is further proof of the importance that the Forum’s member states see in anchoring this framework and the regional cooperation that it has fostered in a variety of civilian, security, and prosperous areas that will contribute to the region and its people, without geographical or political boundaries,” said the MFA.
Delegation heads from the host country Bahrain, Deputy Foreign Minister of Bahrain Sheikh Abdullah and Israel’s Forum Chair, MFA Director General Alon Ushpiz, noted in press statements that the summit “once again exemplifies the importance that the countries see in promoting ties and continuing to conduct the Negev Forum as a platform for promoting solutions to shared challenges.”
In a separate communiqué, the US State Department said, “The Committee’s main objective is to further coordinate our collective efforts and advance a common vision for the region” by outlining “a framework document for the Negev Forum” in a “four-part structure: the Foreign Ministers’ Ministerial, the Presidency, the Steering Committee and the Working Groups;” the latter of which will address clean energy, education and coexistence, food and water security, health, regional security and tourism.
“This meeting demonstrates the strength of our relations, our shared commitment to cooperation, and the important opportunities unlocked by improved relations between Israel and its neighbors, showing what can be achieved by working together to overcome shared challenges,” added the State Department, stressing that, “ The participants also affirmed that these relations can be harnessed to create momentum in Israeli-Palestinian relations, towards a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and as part of efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
The Working Groups are slated to meet routinely to advance initiatives aimed at encouraging regional integration, cooperation and development for the benefit of the peoples of the region and across a variety of spheres – including initiatives to bolster the economy and improve the quality of life of Palestinians.
The Foreign Ministers Steering Committee, the principal governing body of the Forum, is expected to convene annually, under the auspices of Israel as the Negev Forum President.
The next Negev Forum Ministerial meeting will be held later this year, preceded by a further summit of the Steering Committee set to be held in Israel.