Somalia agrees to attend Negev Forum meeting in Israel

Washington (Caasimada Online) – In an unprecedented move, two Muslim-majority nations, Somalia and Comoros, have decided to send senior delegates to observe a forthcoming ministerial gathering of the Negev Forum.

The Negev Forum, established in March 2022, is a prestigious body comprising nations such as the United States, Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco.

This development, confirmed by two high-ranking Israeli officials to Axios, signals a positive shift in these nations’ stance towards Israel, with whom they have no official diplomatic ties.

While both Somalia and Comoros are part of the Arab League, the decision to engage with the Negev Forum underscores a subtle yet substantial stride towards normalizing relations with Israel.

According to sources, representatives from these two nations have been engaged in secret discussions with Israel over the past few years and have recently made confidential visits to the country.

Background of the Negev Forum

During an extraordinary meeting held in Israel in 2022, the Negev Forum was conceived to foster regional multilateral cooperation.

The forum primarily focuses on critical health, economy, climate change, water, and security sectors.

It was endorsed by significant political figures such as Secretary of State Tony Blinken and foreign ministers from member countries.

The second ministerial meeting of the Negev Forum, initially slated for March, has been deferred multiple times.

The delay stems from the concerns voiced by Arab members regarding public engagement with the right-wing Israeli government amid the tense Israeli-Palestinian conflict conditions.

However, the meeting is now anticipated to occur post-summer.

Behind-the-scenes developments

Before the latest postponement, Israel had invited Somalia and Comoros to participate in the meeting as observers. According to Israeli sources, both nations accepted the proposal.

In a recent press briefing, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen confirmed that several countries with Israel lacking formal diplomatic relations were expected to attend the meeting.

He optimistically added that Israel believes their participation in future meetings will be crucial to normalization.

Cohen further provided updates to US Secretary of State Blinken regarding Israel’s ongoing dialogue with Arab and Muslim-majority countries that currently lack diplomatic relations.

To sustain the momentum, Cohen emphasized the need to schedule the Negev Forum ministerial meeting soon to facilitate the participation of representatives from these nations.

Neither the Somali Embassy in Washington nor the Comoros mission to the UN responded to requests for comment on the matter.