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January 9, 2023 4:53 pm
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US, Israeli, Arab Diplomats Convene in Abu Dhabi for Negev Forum Meeting

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avatar by Andrew Bernard

Negev Forum Working Groups Meeting, 9 January 2023, Abu Dhabi, UAE (Photo: UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation)

More than 150 senior diplomats from the US, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Morocco met in Abu Dhabi on Monday for a two-day working groups meeting of the Negev Forum to increase regional cooperation.

The forum, which first met in the Negev desert town of Sde Boker, Israel, in March 2022, will focus on six priority areas: food security and water technology, clean energy, tourism, health, education and coexistence, and regional security. 

Alon Ushpiz, Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the head of the Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi, said that this was likely the largest gathering of Israeli officials and their regional counterparts since the Madrid Talks in the early 1990s.

“The challenges our region faces are many, but this genuine network of cooperation, partnership and friendship between nations and people allows us to confront them together, by advancing a joint vision of security, prosperity and peace for the region and its inhabitants,” Ushpiz said.

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Although no date has been set, the Abu Dhabi working groups forum is expected to be followed by a meeting of the countries’ foreign ministers in Morocco this spring.

Asked at a press briefing Monday if meetings like this were advancing the interests of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that while they are not a substitute for peace negotiations, the Palestinians would be on the agenda.

“I would suspect that in the talks that took place today and the talks that take place tomorrow in Abu Dhabi, there will be quite a bit of talk, including on the part of the United States, but also on the part of these other Arab governments of the need to see tangible progress, tangible improvements, in the day to day conditions for the Palestinian people,” Price said.

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