The historic meeting of the Negev Forum in March, involving foreign ministers from Israel, the US, the UAE, Morocco and Egypt, was the beginning of a framework for regional cooperation, according to the Negev Forum Steering Committee.
The inaugural meeting of the Committee, composed of senior officials from each nation’s foreign ministry, occurred on June 27 in Manama, Bahrain. The purpose was to discuss the framework for regional cooperation decided upon at the Negev Forum.
“The Committee’s main objective is to further coordinate our collective efforts and advance a common vision for the region. In this context, we outlined a framework document for the Negev Forum, setting out the objectives of the Forum, and the working methods of its four-part structure: the Foreign Ministers’ Ministerial, the Presidency, the Steering Committee, and the Working Groups,” said a joint statement by the governments of participating countries.
“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,” the statement said.
It added: “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 Steering Committee discussed assigning chairs for each of the six working groups launched by the ministers at the Negev Forum.
“The working groups are to 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. Working Group chairs, with the consensus of members, may invite non-member participants to participate in specific initiatives where their participation delivers a direct benefit to the initiative’s stated goal.”
The working groups are: Clean Energy; Education and Coexistence; Food and Water Security; Health; Regional Security; and Tourism.
The Foreign Ministers’ group will convene annually as the principal governing body of the Forum. Israel continues to serve as Negev Forum President until the next gathering of ministers.
“The Steering Committee emphasized that deeper cooperation and improved understanding among our countries is fundamental to the success of the broader region,” said participant nations. “We look forward to the next Negev Forum Ministerial meeting later this year, to be preceded by a further meeting of the Steering Committee to be held in Israel.”