The Negev Forum countries held working group meetings in Abu Dhabi on Monday to advance regional projects with a lot of fanfare from the participants, while Jordan remained absent from the gathering.
"The convening of the Negev Forum working groups of in the Emirates is another step in advancing and deepening the Abraham Accords," Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said in a message he sent to participants from Jerusalem.
The regional meeting of delegations from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt and the United States, will help those countries confront regional challenges, Cohen said.
"Israel places great importance on cooperation with the countries of the forum in dealing with the challenges we face. The Israeli delegation will present various projects that will improve the quality of life of the residents of Israel and the Middle East," Cohen said.
Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz led the Israeli delegation which included representatives from the Agriculture, Health, Defense, Intelligence, Tourism, Energy, Education and Economy Ministries as well as from the Water Authority and the National Security Council.
"The working groups will compile a list of projects in the fields of health, regional security, education and tolerance, water and food security, tourism and energy," the Foreign Ministry said.
The UAE meeting will also prepare the groundwork for a Negev Forum summit of foreign ministers in Morocco, possibly as early as March.
2022 Negev Forum summit
The first foreign ministerial summit was held in the Negev last march, with three of the four Abraham Accord countries, with whom Israel normalized ties in 2020. These were the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, Egypt, which has had a peace deal with Israel since 1979, also joined the Negev Forum. Jordan, which has been at peace with Israel since 1994, is invited to the forum but has yet to join its meeting.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the Negev Forum with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi when the two men spoke by telephone last week.