Middle East

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WASHINGTON: US officials on Tuesday said they are working to increase integration and cooperation between several Arab states and Israel in various fields as part of the Negev Forum.

Established in 2022, the forum seeks to foster cooperation between Arab states and Israel as part of the Abraham Accords.

The US diplomats participated in two days of meetings of the forum’s working groups in Abu Dhabi this week, along with senior representatives from the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, the UAE and Israel. 

“What the Negev Forum did was create six working groups that met over the past two days,” Derek Chollet, counselor at the US State Department, said during a telephonic briefing attended by Arab News.

“These six working groups cover regional security, clean energy, food and water security, health, tourism, and education and coexistence,” he added.

“Very specifically, we sought to develop clear, concrete and pragmatic steps that will bolster integration and help us augment security, peace and economic prosperity in the region.”

The forum has expanded trade and economic relations, tourism, direct flights, and cultural and academic exchanges between several Arab states and Israel.

Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has refused to participate in the forum as long as the Palestinians are not part of it.

Palestinians view the forum as an attempt to sideline its key demands of independence and an end to the Israeli occupation.

Elizabeth Allen, senior American official for public diplomacy and public affairs, said since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, educational cooperation between Arab states and Israel has increased.

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“The goal of our collective efforts in this Negev Forum with our partners was to build a new regional framework that has the potential to change the future of the Middle East and North Africa. That’s our ongoing work,” she added.

Cindy McCain, US ambassador to the UN agencies in Rome, said food and water security are the most critical issues facing many countries worldwide, and the situation has worsened due to the war in Ukraine, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

She added that the forum seeks to find specific and concrete potential projects that participating countries could develop in order to solve the food security crisis.

“We need a united global effort to save lives and to tackle the root of hunger. We must invest in science, technology and integration to create efficient and resilient food systems for the future,” she said.

The next meeting of the forum will be held in Morocco in the spring.



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