Washington: United States along with five partner countries (Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco and UAE held the inaugural meeting of the Negev Forum Steering Committee -- a framework to advance a common vision for the region and enhance regional cooperation -- in Manama, Bahrain.

"The Governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, represented by senior officials from their respective foreign ministries, held the inaugural meeting of the Negev Forum Steering Committee in Manama, Bahrain on June 27, 2022," said the State Department in its press release.

The meeting is of particular importance in light of US President Joe Biden's expected visit to Israel and the Middle East and the American commitment to expanding the circle of peace, said the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Notably, US President Joe Biden will make his first trip to the Middle East region next month, visiting Israel, West Bank and Saudi Arabia from July 13-16.

"The Committee's main objective is to further coordinate our collective efforts and advance a common vision for the region. In this context, we outlined a framework document for the Negev Forum, setting out the objectives of the Forum, and the working methods of its four-part structure: the Foreign Ministers' Ministerial, the Presidency, the Steering Committee, and the Working Groups," the US State Department added.

As per the US and the partner countries, this meeting demonstrated the strength of relations, shared commitment to cooperation, and the important opportunities unlocked by improved relations between Israel and its neighbours, showing what can be achieved by working together to overcome shared challenges.

The participants also affirmed that these relations can be harnessed to create momentum in Israeli-Palestinian relations, towards a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and as part of efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

The Steering Committee discussed the assignment of chairs for each of the six Working Groups launched by the Ministers at the Negev Summit. The Working Groups are to meet regularly throughout the year to advance initiatives that encourage regional integration, cooperation, and development for the benefit of the peoples of the region and across a variety of spheres, including initiatives that strengthen the Palestinian economy and improve the quality of life of Palestinians.

The Working Group chairs are expected to regularly report progress to the Steering Committee. Working Group chairs, with the consensus of members, may invite non-member participants to participate in specific initiatives where their participation delivers a direct benefit to the initiative's stated goal.

The Working Groups are Clean Energy, Education and Coexistence, Food and Water Security, Health, Regional Security and Tourism.

The Foreign Ministers' Ministerial, which is expected to convene annually, is to be the principal governing body of the Forum. Israel continues to serve as Negev Forum President until the next Ministerial gathering.

The Steering Committee emphasized that deeper cooperation and improved understanding among our countries is fundamental to the success of the broader region. "We look forward to the next Negev Forum Ministerial meeting later this year, to be preceded by a further meeting of the Steering Committee to be held in Israel," the release added.