With an eye to a regional security alliance and in advance of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East, Israel is set to meet with Bahraini, Emirati, Moroccan, Egyptian and US officials on Monday in Manama.
“One of the topics they will discuss is a regional security architecture,” Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General Oded Joseph, who heads the Middle East and Peace Process Divisions, told reporters.
“It’s an important event” and a cornerstone for future cooperation, Joseph said, adding that Iran will be one of the topics that will be raised.
The countries that will gather in Manama participated in the historic Negev Summit at Sde Boker in April and their dialogue is considered a follow-up to that gathering.
It “will also serve as a milestone ahead of the US president’s expected visit to the Middle East,” the Foreign Ministry said.
"[The Negev Summit Steering Committee]... will also serve as a milestone ahead of the US President’s expected visit to the Middle East"Israels Foreign Ministry
Middle East prepares for renewed Iran nuclear talks
What is known as the meeting of the Negev Summit Steering Committee comes as European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced that indirect talks to revive the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program would resume.
Israel and countries in the region have opposed the Iran deal and have increasingly brushed aside other differences to mount a united front against the Islamic Republic.
The US, which wants to revive the deal, has also supported burgeoning regional alliances. Washington is working on an integrated Middle East air-defense system.
Top military meetings between IDF, Middle East chiefs
On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported that top military commanders from the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan had secretly met in Sharm e-Sheikh in March to discuss Iran. It was an unusual gathering given that Qatar and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic ties with Israel.
In contrast, Monday’s meeting will be a very public affair. Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Upshiz left for Bahrain already on Monday night. Yael Lempert, principal deputy assistant secretary for the US State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, will represent the Biden administration.
The Negev Summit
THE NEGEV Summit in April had expanded on the ties formed by the Abraham Accords in 2020 that allowed Israel to normalize ties with four Arab countries: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
“At that [April 2022] gathering, the foreign ministers decided that [the Negev Summit] would not be a one-time event – and tomorrow you will see the fulfillment of that for the first time,” Joseph said.
In addition, Israel has had a peace treaty with Egypt since 1979 and with Jordan since 1994.
Even before the Abraham Accords, Israel held unofficial bilateral talks with regional countries, the Foreign Ministry deputy director-general said. What is happening now is that those conversations are taking place at a multilateral level, such as has occurred in the Negev Summit.
“The Negev Summit was a historic event [and] part of the changing face of the Middle East [and] the partnership between the State of Israel and countries of peace,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Jordan is expected to join in future meetings, Joseph said.
Foreign ministers who participated in the Negev Summit are expected to meet annually – and in the interim, six working groups at the director-general level are anticipated to work on the following issues: food and water, energy, health, education and tolerance, tourism and regional security.
Monday’s meeting “will be to determine the working groups’ process,” Joseph said.
In the future, the group could expand to include other countries such as Saudi Arabia, he explained, adding that he anticipated they would be monitoring the situation. European countries such as Germany could also be involved when it comes to specific topics of interest, Joseph said.