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Arab Countries, Israel Meet for Negev Forum, Discuss Coexistence in Bahrain
Diplomats from the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Israel, Bahrain, Morocco, and Egypt pose for a group picture ahead of the Negev Forum's first Steering Committee meeting in the town of in Zallaq, south of the Bahraini capital of Manama on June 27, 2022.(Mazen Mahdi/AFP via Getty Images)

Arab Countries, Israel Meet for Negev Forum, Discuss Coexistence in Bahrain

Egypt’s president will visit Bahrain on Tuesday to sign several economic, political and military agreements between the two countries, capping two weeks of intense meetings between the leaders of several Arab countries

The first meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Negev Forum, which took place on Monday in Bahrain, resulted in the formation of six working groups in the fields of clean energy, education and peaceful coexistence, food and water security, health, regional security, and tourism.

The meeting comes amid big moves taking place in the Middle East ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region next month; the past two weeks have witnessed intense meetings between the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Bahrain.

A statement issued from the meeting stressed “the importance of achieving tangible progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations, and resolving the current conflict through negotiations.”

Senior officials from the ministries of foreign affairs of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Morocco, the United States and Israel participated in the meeting.

A source with knowledge of Monday’s meeting confirmed to The Media Line that “the meeting discussed issues related to the ongoing negotiations on the nuclear agreement with Iran, and Iranian activities in the region.”

In addition, the source confirmed, “The ‘NATO’ alliance in the Middle East was not raised at the meeting table.”

There is a joint commitment to cooperation among the six countries to exploit many opportunities for cooperation between Israel and its neighbors to achieve common interests, and for there to be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a comprehensive peace

“The Negev Forum will be open to the participation of the countries of the region, and the forum is not a military forum and was established for cooperation between the six countries to achieve development,” Sheikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, undersecretary of the Bahraini Foreign Ministry for Political Affairs, said at a news conference after the meeting.

“There is a joint commitment to cooperation among the six countries to exploit many opportunities for cooperation between Israel and its neighbors to achieve common interests, and for there to be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a comprehensive peace,” he added.

Sheikh Abdulla explained that the forum aims to enhance regional cooperation, integration and development for the benefit of the peoples of the region, including improving quality of life for the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will visit Bahrain on Tuesday, 10 days after the visit of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa to the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he held a meeting with Sisi, as well as participating in a summit with the Egyptian president and Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Other sources confirmed to The Media Line that “Sisi’s visit, after King Hamad’s recent visit, comes to sign several agreements in areas of economic, political, military and other fields between Bahrain and Egypt.”

The sources indicated that Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al Zayani and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will hold a press conference on Wednesday “to clarify the results of the visit and the most prominent outcomes of it.”

The sources denied that “Egypt entered the mediation line between Bahrain and Qatar,” as the estrangement between the two countries has continued since June 2017, despite the signing of the Al-Ula agreement between Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt with Qatar in January 2021, which was supposed to resolve the years-long crisis between these countries and Qatar.

“The ‘Middle East NATO’ is on the table, the countries agree on the necessity of having such an alliance, but it will probably be raised at the summit with Biden,” one of the sources added.

It is noteworthy that successive meetings took place in the Middle East in the past two weeks, during which the Saudi crown prince met with the presidents of Egypt and Turkey and Jordan’s king, and then received the prime minister of Iraq and the commander of the Pakistani army.

In the same period, the meetings took place between Bahrain’s king and Egypt’s Sisi, followed the next day by the tripartite summit between the kings of Jordan and Bahrain and Sisi, and after that the Egyptian president received the Emir of Qatar.

After his meeting with the king of Bahrain, Sisi will leave for Oman, where more agreements are set to be signed between Egypt and Oman.

“The results of these accelerated moves will be the formation of an alliance in the Middle East similar to NATO, which was announced by the king of Jordan, to confront Iran, and this alliance will be with Israeli participation,” Jordanian political analyst Khalid Assaf told The Media Line.

“The alliance this time will be stronger than the Islamic military alliance that was announced several years ago, and we may not see the participation of countries such as Kuwait and the Sultanate of Oman, which do not prefer to participate in any military alliances to confront Iran,” Assaf added.

Regarding the recent successive meetings of leaders of some Arab countries, Assaf said, “This is normal, as there is an expected summit with President Joe Biden during his visit to Saudi Arabia. It must be well prepared because the countries of the region have the same common concerns, and they will put everything they want on the table in front of Biden.”

The Middle East NATO will be against Iran, but it is also an opportunity for Israel to integrate into the Arab security system, especially the Gulf

Mohammad Al-Sisi Al-Buainain, head of the Security, Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee in Bahrain’s parliament, told The Media Line that “President el-Sisi’s visit to Bahrain comes within the old joint relations between the two countries.”

“There is no surprise in the mutual visits, of course, the mutual visits took place every year and in recent times. Bahrain and Egypt have a very special relationship, and there is nothing new in that,” he added.

“There are accelerating events in the region, and there is certainly high-level coordination between Bahrain and Egypt, and there is a congruence of views as always between the two countries,” he also said.

Khalid Gamal, an Egyptian political analyst and journalist, confirmed to The Media Line that “Sisi’s visit is very important and at a sensitive time, and it is certainly related to what will take place in the meeting with President Biden next month.”

Saudi political analyst Mutlaq Al-Enezi told The Media Line that “Saudi Arabia leads large alliances in the Middle East. We are currently hearing about a Middle Eastern NATO, but its details have not been announced so far.”

“The successive visits are, of course, to increase coordination and reach common positions that enhance joint plans in the Middle East,” he said.

“We must not forget that there are global tensions such as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, fear of famine, lack of supplies, and other problems. Therefore, it is imperative for Arab countries to resolve and address such concerns,” he added.

Amjad Zahrawi, an Iraqi and journalist writer, told The Media Line that “The Middle East NATO will be against Iran, but it is also an opportunity for Israel to integrate into the Arab security system, especially the Gulf.”

“Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi will not obtain the approval of the political forces to engage in any military alliance that includes Israel, and the alliance is directed against Iran, and most of the political forces in Iraq are loyal to Iran,” he added.

 

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