Officials from Israel, six Arab countries hold first multilateral meeting of its kind

Senior officials from UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Israel convened in the UAE this week

The Israeli Ministry of Regional Cooperation

Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation Esawi Frej with Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari in the UAE

High-level officials from Israel and the six Arab countries with which it has normalized relations met in the United Arab Emirates for the first-ever multilateral meeting between senior representatives of the seven countries, Jewish Insider has learned.

The two-day conference that ended on Wednesday, named N7 — N for normalization and 7 for the number of participating countries —  was hosted by the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation and the Atlantic Council, the culmination of six months of planning.  

Senior officials from the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Israel participated in the conference.

While the organizations said they were not at liberty to reveal who was at the conference, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll and Minister of Regional Cooperation Esawi Frej tweeted pictures of their meetings with Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari in Abu Dhabi. 

“The event was tremendously successful and productive,” Oren Eisner, president of the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation, told JI. “It is clear to me that this conference will lead to real, tangible results that will help progress and deepen Arab-Israeli normalization and will put in place initiatives that can benefit all people in the region.”

Israel has not been shy about publicizing the meetings between its ministers and the Sudanese justice minister, but the privacy surrounding the conference indicates that other participating countries are not as forthcoming about their engagement with Israel.

“Our goal was to identify the gaps thus far in the normalization process and see where we could help make a contribution. We saw that progress had largely been made on a bilateral basis, and we thought that a multilateral approach could offer added value to the countries involved. This was a gap that we could help fill,” said William Wechsler, senior director of the Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council.

At the conference, Wechsler said, “people talked about how to broaden and deepen the normalization that exists to maximise the potential for the individual countries in question and the region at large.”  The organizations are committed to holding additional events of this type and are hopeful that the number of participating countries will increase. 

On Tuesday, a senior U.S. State Department Official said in a briefing: “When it comes to the Abraham Accords, the Biden administration strongly supports states normalizing relations with Israel. We welcome efforts by think tanks, civil society, and others to advance normalization efforts.” The comments were made ahead of Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s bilateral and trilateral meetings with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Just a few weeks ago, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam Al Sadiq Al Mahdi, whose country normalized ties with Israel a year ago — with little progress since — downplayed relations between the two countries. “There’s not any sign of normalization with Israel … and there are no talks at any official level,” Al Mahdi told The National.

Idan Roll wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, “Our goal is to join hands in technological training, in order to help young people of all sides to the accords to adapt to the changes in the labor market and give them more capabilities in which they can also engage remotely, as an integral part of the high-tech industry.”

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Abdulbari said during his meeting with Frej, “Cultural and educational cooperation with Israel is important for us, even more than economic ties. We must get to know each other and strengthen the contacts between our peoples.”

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