Somalia president agreed to participate in the Negev Forum meeting in Israel

File Photo/Somali Times

Somalia and Comoros have agreed to send senior monitoring officials to the ministerial-level meeting of the Negev Forum, a group that includes the United States, Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, two US officials told Axios newspaper.

Somalia and Comoros, two Islamic countries, do not have official diplomatic relations with Israel.

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Officials from both countries have had secret talks with Israel for years, and recently made a secret visit to Israel, according to Israeli officials who spoke to Axios newspaper reported.

Their participation in the meeting could be a big step in the process of the two countries having diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Negev forum was founded in March 2022, after an extraordinary meeting attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the foreign ministers of Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

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The foundation of the forum is aimed at countries in the region to cooperate on issues of health, economy, climate change, water and security.

The second ministerial-level meeting of the Negev Forum was planned for last March, but was postponed several times, after the Arab members expressed concern about dealing directly with the far-right government of Israel.

The meeting is now expected to take place this summer.

Before the postponement of the March meeting, Israel proposed that Somalia and Comoros participate in the meeting as observers, and both countries accepted, Israeli officials told Axios.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said “two or three countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel will attend the meeting.”

He added that Israel still believes “that they will participate in future meetings, and it will be a step forward towards formal relations.”

Somalia’s embassy in Washington and the UN mission in Comoros did not respond to requests for comment.