Summit to Become Regular Forum, Unity Will 'Deter Iran,' Israel's Lapid Says

Decrying terror and envisioning peace, the foreign ministers of Israel, Morocco, Egypt, Bahrain, the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates seek to counter Iran through 'new regional architecture'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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From left: Bahrain's Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Egypt's Sameh Shoukry, Israel's Yair Lapid, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Morocco's Nasser Bourita and the UAE's Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan
From left: Bahrain's Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Egypt's Sameh Shoukry, Israel's Yair Lapid, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Morocco's Nasser Bourita and the UAE's Abdullah bin Zayed Al NCredit: Asi Efrati
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a press conference Monday that the Mideast summit taking place in the Negev will be a "regular forum," noting that the coalition of Middle Eastern countries will "deter" Iran and its proxies.

"This meeting is the first of its kind and not the last. We decided to make this meeting into a dedicated forum," said Lapid, standing alongside the foreign ministers of Morocco, Egypt, Bahrain, the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates.

"What we are doing here is making history, building a new regional architecture based on progress, technology, religious tolerance, security and intelligence cooperation," Lapid said.

Workers put up flags in preparation for "The Negev Summit" to be hosted by Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and attended by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the foreign ministers of theCredit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

"This new architecture – the shared capabilities we are building – intimidates and deters our common enemies, first and foremost Iran and its proxies."

Lapid began the press conference by saying Israel will not be intimidated by the terrorist attack Sunday in the city of Hadera, in which two people were killed.

"We will continue on our path, the path of peace," he said. "I am not
alone in this, everyone here shares this sentiment," he added, saying that all foreign ministers participating in the summit condemned the attack.

Bahrain Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani shakes hands with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid.Credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, "Just a few years ago this gathering would have been impossible to imagine," and that since the signing of the Abraham Accords, "once-impossible things became possible."

"This is a new dawn," he said, adding, "The United States has and will continue to strongly support a process that is transforming the region and beyond."

Blinken added, however, "We have to be clear that these regional peace agreements are not a substitute for progress between Palestinians and Israelis."

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid greets his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.Credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani began by condemning the terror attack and stressing his country's commitment to peace and coexistence. "This is an important and timely meeting, he said of the summit." He cited the Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah, and the Iranian nuclear question as regional issues that make such gatherings important.

Israel and Bahrain also signed a "framework agreement for cooperation," Lapis said later on Monday.

Egypt's foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, who spoke next, said the summit also provided an opportunity to discuss issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the two-state solution, as well as Jerusalem.

"It will be incumbent to deal with the pressures that might arise and the importance of restricting any unilateral activity that would influence the current situation and impact the tranquility of a sensitive and important time," added Shoukry.

Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said "our presence today is the best response" to terror attacks such as the one that took place Sunday.

"This is not an opportunistic move," he added. "It is a natural decision based on the longstanding relations between Morocco, Israel, the King of Morocco and the Moroccan Jewish community. They say that every Israeli has someone in his family with Moroccan blood."

The UAE's foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed thanked Lapid for the hospitality, calling the summit a historic moment. He lamented the 43 years – since Egypt and Israel signed a peace accord – that have passed and could have been used to "know each other and change the narrative."

He said the 300,000 Israelis who have visited the UAE over the past year and a half, since a peace agreement was signed between the two countries, is a sign of "how much we want to know each other."

"Although Israel has been part of this region for a very long time, we've not known each other, so it's time to catch up, to build on a strong relationship," he said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this article.

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