Courtesy of JNS. Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen attends a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Jan. 25, 2023

(JNS) — Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Sunday corrected Israeli media reports that Morocco had cancelled the second gathering of the Negev Forum, a group formed to advance the Abraham Accords.

Cohen admitted that the postponement had arisen out of Israel’s announcement that it would build thousands of homes in Judea and Samaria, but said the Negev Forum meeting would eventually go ahead.

Cohen also revealed that two or three countries not currently signatories to the Abraham Accords were to participate, though he didn’t name them.

Currently, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have joined the accords—normalization agreements first signed between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in September 2020. At the time, then-U.S. President Donald Trump said seven to nine countries sought peace with Israel.

On June 15, Cohen noted that the effort to expand the Abraham Accords remains strong, praising the passing on June 13 of a bipartisan bill by the U.S. House of Representatives requiring the State Department to establish an ambassador-level special envoy position for the Abraham Accords.

“The U.S. and Israel are walking shoulder to shoulder in promoting peace agreements and normalization in the Middle East and establishing diplomatic relations with Muslim countries in the world,” said Cohen.

The Negev Forum developed out of the Negev Summit, called together by then-Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on March 27-28, 2022, in Sde Boker in southern Israel. It featured U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and four Arab foreign ministers.

So successful was the summit that the ministers decided to make it a recurring event. “Last night, we decided to make the Negev Summit into a permanent forum. Together with our closest friends, the United States, we are today opening a door before all the peoples of the region,” said Lapid at a press conference at the summit.

Attending the summit were the foreign ministers of three of the four Arab countries that signed the Abraham Accords: the UAE’s Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Bahrain’s Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and Morocco’s Nasser Bourita.

Also joining was Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace deal. Egypt was represented by its foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry.