A historic summit in Israel will bring together the foreign ministers of the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt who will arrive on Sunday to a resort in the southern kibbutz of Sde Boker.
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Egypt and Jordan were not formally invited to the meeting, described as a summit for the signatories of the Abraham Accords, the U.S.-brokered normalization pacts between Israel and several Arab states. While Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry will be in attendance, Jordan apparently declined to send representatives, according to an official Israeli statement on Saturday that doesn’t mention Jordan at all. Palestinian and Jordanian sources confirmed Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi will not attend.
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Israel invited both Cairo and Amman to send delegations to the meeting, but preferred not to send official invitations, sources said, in order to prevent a situation in which one of the invitees declined the invitation.
Discussions at the “Negev Summit” are expected to revolve around two main topics: Iran and energy-related cooperation, mainly on natural gas. The summit is being convened against the backdrop of the imminent signing of a new nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers.
The idea for a summit between the signatories to the Abraham accords was born during Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s June visit to the UAE, but plans for the “Negev Summit” only began last week. Lapid personally called the other foreign ministers in order to invite them, seizing the opportunity to invite U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s during his tour of the Middle East amid the progress made in nuclear talks with Iran, an issue that concerns all parties to the summit.
While it remains unclear what sort of outcome the summit may have, specifically on the Iran issue, an Israeli official involved in the preparations for it said that its importance stems from its mere existence. A meeting of regional foreign ministers with U.S. support is a clear signal to Tehran, according to the official. Israeli officials also hope to see the summit leading to further collaborations or similar events in the future.
Palestinian officials plan to ask Egypt's Shoukry to raise the Palestinian issue at the meeting. An Egyptian official told Haaretz that even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn't discussed directly, it can't be wholly ignored during the talks.
Jordan's King Abdullah II is expected in Ramallah on Monday for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting is unrelated to the summit in Israel, but some Jordanian and Palestinian sources said Foreign Minister Safadi wouldn't join it before Abdullah's visit.
The six-way meeting will be held at the Kedma Hotel in Sde Boker. Foreign Minister Lapid’s office wanted to hold the event as an “Israeli Camp David,” allowing leaders to hold informal conversations. For this, the hotel was closed for business, hosting only the leaders and their delegations.
The UAE's Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bahrain's Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Morocco's Nasser Bourita and Egypt's Shoukry will start arriving Sunday afternoon at Ben-Gurion International Airport, and then transferred by helicopter to Sde Boker. Blinken will arrive directly at Sde Boker after his visit to Ramallah.
On Sunday evening there will be a limited-attendance dinner, and on Monday, meetings with more participants will take place, with a possible visit to the adjacent grave of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, later in the day. The ministers will deliver a joint statement to the media on Monday evening.
Morocco, the UAE and Bahrain signed normalization agreements with Israel as part of a U.S.-led push in 2020, with relations between the nations warming since.
On his regional tour, Secretary Blinken is also expected to visit the West Bank, Morocco, and Algeria this week, according to a State Department announcement on Thursday.
In Israel, he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and President Isaac Herzog. In the West Bank, he is scheduled to meet with Abbas and "representatives of Palestinian civil society."