Bahrain hosted on Monday the inaugural meeting of the Negev Forum Steering Committee.
The United States, Israel and four Arab countries agreed on Monday to bolster cooperation and hold annual meetings for their foreign ministers.
The agreement was reached at the inaugural meeting of the Negev Forum Steering Committee that was hosted by Bahrain’s capital, Manama, two weeks before US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region.
Monday’s meeting brought together senior diplomats from the US and Israel and foreign ministry officials from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. The Arab countries had established diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020. Egyptian officials also attended.
The region is witnessing intense diplomatic activity before Biden’s trip, which is aimed at boosting regional ties.
The gatherers at the Manama meeting agreed to bolster cooperation and hold annual meetings for their countries’ foreign ministers. Ministerial talks will be held later this year. Israel will continue as head of the forum until the next ministerial meeting.
A closing statement said working groups were formed to boost cooperation in clean energy, education, coexistence, food and water security, health, tourism and regional security.
It stressed support for reaching a political settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“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,” it said.
“The participants also stressed 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 Steering Committee discussed the assignment of chairs for each of the six Working Groups launched by the Ministers at the Negev Summit.”
The Working Groups will meet regularly throughout the year to advance initiatives that encourage regional integration, cooperation, and development for the benefit of the peoples of the region and across a variety of spheres, including initiatives that strengthen the Palestinian economy and improve the quality of life of Palestinians.
The Working Group chairs are expected to regularly report progress to the Steering Committee.