The month of March ended with a unique piece of diplomacy in the Middle East. A group of six Foreign Ministers held a meeting in the Negev Desert to discuss regional matters. Sounds simple actually but there is a deeper context for this meeting.
The State of Israel was the host nation. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken Represented the United States during this meeting. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry also attended the meeting. The identity of the other three attendees proved to more interesting than any potential discussion during this event.
The other three attendees were Abdulatif bin Rashid Al Zayani the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the Foreign Minister of Morocco Nasser Bourita. The symbolism of this summit is very unique for several reasons.
First of all we have the first country that formally signed a Peace Deal with Israel present. That country being Egypt. Plus the three countries that signed the Abrahamic Accords within the last few years present as well. Those countries are Bahrain, the UAE and Morocco. Under this context a summit should not be considered to be an idea that sounds too good to be true.
The rapid expansion of economic ties between Israel and both Bahrain and the Emirates has been a spectacle to marvel at. The Commercial ties and the increase in travel between citizens of these nations has the potential to lead to further economic expansion. But the economic concerns leads to new and interesting conversations regarding another topic. That is security concerns.
Media reports covering the summit state that the topic of the summit was creating a regional security architecture. There are several challenges that are currently active that made this summit timely. The conflict in Yemen is one of the conflict zones that was expected to be discussed. The instability in Libya before long delayed elections are another issue that creates security issues. During one briefing an official stated that the alliance will deal with threat from land, sea and air. However a series of incidents in Israel threatened to overshadow this meeting. The fiery comments by the Emirati Foreign Minister condemning the attacks added a succint layer to the conversation.
Clearly these nations realize that they face several common security threats. Iran looms large with their presence in Syria, Iraq and in Lebanon. Their support for the Houthis in Yemen is another concern. Jihadists also loom large in wide swaths of the Mahgreb and the Sahel as well. The renewed hostilities in Ukraine also presents a new risk as well regarding Food Security.
This may have been the first summit and we shouldn’t expect it to be the last.