October 1, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken Joint Press Statements at the Conclusion of the Negev Summit

25 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Sde Boker

Kedma Hotel

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.  We are starting now the last chapter of the Negev Summit, which are the press statements by all six foreign ministers.  First to address us is our host, Foreign Minister of the State of Israel His Excellency Yair Lapid.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAPID:  Thank you, my friend Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

Last night, for the second time in a week, terror struck in the heart of Israel – at the heart of Israel in two senses: in the heart of the country in a crowded city, and also in the heart of every Israeli citizen.  This was murder for the sake of murder, terror for the sake of terror.  These terrorists fired in every direction with one goal: to kill as many innocent people as possible, to shed as much blood as possible.  I send my condolences to the families of the murdered and my wishes for the full and speedy recovery of the wounded.  Our thoughts and prayers are with them today.

Shortly after the attack, Islamic Jihad and Hamas praised it.  They declared that it was a response to the Negev Summit we are holding here.  The terrorists’ goal is to intimidate us, to make us afraid to meet and to build relationships and the agreements between us.  They will not succeed; we will not let them.  We have no intention of rewarding terrorists.  We have no intention of letting them dictate our lives or our policies.  Israel is a strong and a proud country and will never surrender to terror.  We will continue on our path, the path of peace.

I am not alone in this.  Everyone here shares this sentiment.  Last night, all the foreign ministers participating in the summit condemned with one strong voice the horrific terror attack.  On behalf of the people of Israel, I thank you for this.

My friends, Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion, who is buried two minutes away from here, once said history is isn’t written, history is made.  What we are doing here is making history, building a new regional architecture based on progress, technology, religious tolerance, security, and intelligence cooperation.  This new architecture, the shared capabilities we are building, intimidates and deters our common enemies, first and foremost Iran and its proxies. They certainly have something to fear.  What will stop them is not hesitation or being conciliatory, but rather determination and strength.

Friends, we are standing here in the Negev where our common father went after signing the original Abraham Accords between him and the Lord.  In the book of Genesis, it is written:  Then Abram set out and continued towards the Negev.  He came here to build a better future for his people and his family, and we are here for the same reason.

The history of the Middle East is the story of smart and tough people who made the desert bloom.  Our peoples are those who stopped right here and said, in this place, in this desert, we will make life flourish.  From this desert will spring forth palaces and temples, schools and hospitals, inspirational art and literature, and groundbreaking technology.  This meeting is the first of its kind, but not the last.

Last night, we decided to make the Negev Summit into a permanent forum.  Together with our  closest friend and ally, the United States, we are today opening a door before all the peoples of the region, including the Palestinians, and offering them to replace the way of terror and destruction with shared future of progress and success.  Thank you very much.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Minister Lapid.  Next to address us, Secretary of State of the United States Antony Blinken.  Please, sir.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Let me begin by joining Yair and all of my colleagues in condemning the horrific terrorist attack last night in Hadera, which killed two border police officers, both just 19 years old.  On behalf of President Biden, the American people, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of the victims, Yazan Fallah and Shirel Aboukaret.  No family should have to experience such loss, and we stand in absolute solidarity with our friends and partners against terrorism and these horrific acts of violence.  And indeed, Yair, as you said, what we are doing here is the exact counterpoint to this senseless destruction and violence.

It’s an honor to be here with you, with Minister Bourita, with Minister Al Zayani, Minister Zayed, Minister Shoukry – the foreign ministers of Israel, Morocco, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt – standing together in Israel.  Just a few years ago, this gathering would have been impossible to imagine.

You mentioned the original Abraham.  He had a dialogue with God.  He had the temerity sometimes to ask why.  We have the temerity, you have the temerity, to ask, why not?  That’s what this is about.  Since September 15th, 2020, when leaders from Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates signed the Abraham Accords, and Morocco and Israel signed a normalization agreement soon after, once-impossible things have become possible.

We’ve seen democracy flourish, with Morocco and Israel agreeing to open embassies in Rabat and Tel Aviv; Prime Minister Bennett becoming the first Israeli prime minister to visit Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates; and last week, the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Egypt meeting to launch new areas of cooperation.  We’ve seen growing economic ties, with Bahrain and Israel signing more than a dozen agreements, including on aviation, on banking, on technology; government and business leaders from Morocco and Israel meeting last week to promote tourism across both countries; a solar energy deal that will accelerate the green energy transition already underway in the region.

At the heart of these interactions are people, people eager to learn about and from one another.  Student exchanges are flourishing between Rabat and Tal Aviv.  A Holocaust memorial exhibition is now opened in Dubai.  Hospitals in Bahrain and Israel are teaming up on cancer research.  Tomorrow, soccer players from – or football players from your countries will play in the Abraham Accords festival and games at the Dubai Expo, where there’s also an Israel pavilion.

The Abraham Accords are making the lives of people across your countries more peaceful, more prosperous, more vibrant, more integrated.  They’re allowing governments to focus their energies and attentions on the issues that are actually affecting the lives of our citizens and making them better.  The United States has and will continue to strongly support a process that is transforming this region and beyond.  We’ll help to strengthen the bonds between Israel and its circle of friends, both those with which it has normalization agreements and those with which it has longstanding peace treaties, like Egypt and Jordan.

To name one example, later today officials from the United States, the UAE, and Israel will launch the Religious Coexistence Working Group to counter intolerance and promote understanding.  And we’ll help widen the circle of friendship to include other countries interested in securing greater peace and prosperity for their own people.  As we do, we have to be clear that these regional peace agreements are not a substitute for progress between Palestinians and Israelis.

One of the issues we discussed today was how countries involved in the Abraham Accords and normalization, as well as those that have longstanding diplomatic relationships with Israel, can support the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people in concrete ways and have a positive impact on the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.  This is a conversation we’ll carry forward so that we can work toward our goal of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, and dignity, and create the conditions for a negotiated two-state solution.  Finally, as neighbors, and in the case of the United States, as friends, we will also work together to confront common security challenges and threats, including those from Iran and its proxies.

Almost exactly 43 years ago, Israel and Egypt concluded the Camp David Accords.  At that time, standing between President Sadat and President Begin, President Carter said this:  “We are privileged to witness…a significant achievement in the cause of peace, an achievement none thought possible a year ago.”  Well, those were different times.  Israel and its neighbors had just fought a war.  But that sentiment – that what was believed unchangeable was suddenly transformed, creating a new reality – this is also true today.  And as happens whenever you break down barriers that have long kept people from interacting, exchanging ideas, working together, it’s impossible to anticipate all the new directions that this can take us.  This is a new dawn.  The only limits are the ones we can imagine.

So I commend the courage of those willing to break down barriers, political leaders but also people across our societies, individual citizens who are forging new relationships as a result of this historic opening.  I am excited to see all that you and we can imagine and create together for one another, for the region, for the world.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Now I invite His Excellency Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, minister of foreign affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, to address us.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL ZAYANI:  Thank you.  Your Highness, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it has been my great pleasure to participate in this distinguished gathering.  And I want to start by thanking Foreign Minister Lapid for the invitation. and indeed for the hospitality.

I would like to start by condemning the terrorist attack which took place last night, claiming the lives of two border policemen.  And I would like to convey our condolences to the bereaved families and reaffirm our firm stance against terrorism in all its forms.

I join you here on behalf of the Kingdom of Bahrain, a nation which has always been convinced in the importance of peace, dialogue, coexistence, and mutual respect, principles which are fully reflected and embodied in the vision of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the policies implemented by the government led by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

This is an important and timely meeting, and an opportunity to build on the historic 2020 Abraham Accords with a huge scope for growing the region’s prosperity, safeguarding its security, and realizing the aspirations of all its peoples.  The need to do so is made more urgent by recent developments such as the Houthi terrorist militia’s continued attacks on civilian energy infrastructure, the ongoing threat from terrorist organizations such as Hizballah and other proxy groups, and the need to resolve the Iranian nuclear file.

So we need to put into practice the principles behind the accords, namely those of dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect.  We need to establish genuine, sustainable coexistence and interdependence between participants, building genuine networks of cooperation and trust to advance our common security and prosperity.  By doing so, we will demonstrate to the whole region what can be achieved by working together and show how, collectively, we can overcome shared regional challenges and seize opportunities in a way that would not – possible individually.  Of course, part of this process will be renewed efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and Bahrain continues to urge both parties to come together and negotiate a resolution that establishes a viable state for the Palestinians and protects the security and interests of all parties.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the Kingdom of Bahrain, we have moved quickly to build on the Abraham Accords and to rapidly expand our relationship with the state of Israel.  We see great potential for cooperation across all fields.  And over the past 18 months, we have already seen how this potential can be realized.  This forum is therefore an important step in deepening and strengthening these bilateral ties, but also in expanding multilateral cooperation and interdependence among all countries.

Secretary Blinken, in this context, I would like to thank the United States of America for their support to the Abraham Accords and for their continued commitment to the security of the region.  And once again, thank you, Minister Lapid, for hosting this gathering and for these warm and constructive discussions.  And I very much look forward to our next meeting and to building further on what we have achieved today.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Excellency.  I now invite His Excellency Sameh Shoukry, minister of foreign affairs of Egypt, to address us.

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY:  Minister Lapid, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, let me first of all convey our appreciation to Minister Lapid for having convened these consultations.  They are – I think can be characterized by having been constructive and in-depth, and do address the various challenges that our region faces, turbulence related to regional and international conditions.  And we do so, the day before yesterday, having commemorated, as Secretary Blinken has referred to, the 43rd anniversary of the peace between Egypt and Israel, and we see constructive development in the normalization of relations and believe that the path that we set upon 43 years ago is coming to greater fruition and recognition of the importance and the viability of comprehensive peace and security for our region.

This round of discussions has given us an opportunity to highlight views related to how we can further progress in achieving our common objectives, and it certainly did during these discussions.  We did highlight the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the importance of maintaining the credibility and the viability of the two-state solution that – for Israel and a Palestinian state to live side by side in peace with recognized borders for a Palestinian state in accordance with the ’67 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.

This is an important issue, and Egypt has been striving over the years to facilitate and to assist both Israel and the Palestinians to reach the necessary accommodation and compromise that can facilitate an end of the conflict, and thereby open broader doors of regional cooperation, integration, and the benefits for the peoples of the region.  And of course, we do so in collaboration and with the assistance of our partner, the United States of America, and we value very much the coordination that exists and the common understanding related to the path and the way forward.

We certainly also consider and have on every occasion condemned all resort to violence, to terrorism, to incitement, and believe that it is our role as members of the international community but also as Arab states, states where there is a Muslim majority, as President al-Sisi has always declared, that we need to address the religious narrative and to confront extremism and terrorism and thereby provide peace and security for our region.  Also, the importance of addressing the issue of extra-regional intervention and the negative impact on the security and stability of our region.  We believe that we have the resources and the ability to meet those challenges with the help of our partners in the United States, and we’ll continue to seek areas of cooperation that provide for our protection of our national security interests within a peaceful and cooperative framework.

On all of these fronts, I think we have demonstrated our predictability, the dependence, the longevity of our peace with Israel, and that we are partners that can be depended on, and thereby we seek to enhance the areas of cooperation and interaction that can bring benefit to the region and to international peace and security.  For all of these reasons, we look forward to continuing this dialogue and to reaching a understanding and a consensus of how best to deal with the very many issues.  And here again, I think it is going to be incumbent and important on the short term to deal with the pressures that might arise and the importance of restricting any unilateral activity that might agitate the current situation and have an impact on the tranquility during a very sensitive and important time where we hope we can all direct our attention towards a higher cause rather than having to deal with crisis management.

I thank you again for the opportunity and I welcome this dialogue.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Your Excellency.  I now have the pleasure of inviting His Excellency Mr. Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates of the Kingdom of Morocco.

FOREIGN MINISTER BOURITA:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Please, sir.

FOREIGN MINISTER BOURITA:  I would like to start by reiterating Morocco’s strong condemnation of the terrorist attacks of yesterday in Hadera and present our sincere condolences to the victims and our wish of recovery to all the injured.  Our presence today is, I think, the best response to such attacks.

I’m very delighted to be here in Negev in this very historic and timely Negev Summit, or, I should say, first Negev Summit.  And I would like to thank you, Yair, for the invitation, for choosing this very nice venue, and for the hospitality.

I would like also to thank you, Tony, for the presence, for the involvement, for the commitment.  The United States has been a reliable partner in promoting peace, and your personal commitment to this endeavor is very important to us.

Morocco’s presence here under instructions of His Majesty King Mohammed VI is meant to send two messages.  The first one is to our host and to the people of Israel.  As His Majesty King Mohammed VI said when we established the relations, this is not an opportunistic move.  It’s a move of conviction.  It’s a natural decision based on these longstanding relations between Morocco, Israel, and the kings of Morocco, and the Moroccan-Jewish community.

You are saying here that maybe every Israeli has in his family someone with Moroccan blood.  It’s not only a joke; it’s a reality.  I learned that two of the mayors of the main cities in the Negev, in Dimona and in Yeruham, are from Moroccan origin.  And this shows this very close ties between the kingdom and the population here.

Since the signing of the trilateral declaration in December, I think we have achieved a lot: visits, direct flights, agreements, and connecting people, which is also very important.  Very soon there will be a formal bilateral visit in which I think we will strengthen more our relations, including the diplomatic presence of Morocco here in Israel.

The second message is to the region, and I think we are here today because we genuinely, sincerely, and deeply believe in peace – not that kind of passive peace where we turn our backs to each other and peacefully ignore each other, but rather we believe in a thorough, fruitful, paradigm-shaping, and value-creating peace, the only kind of peace that is a battle worth waging.  And I think our presence is a message to that, a message to our people and a message to the people of the region.

We are here to create and to strengthen a positive dynamic, to create a different narrative about the relations between our people.  And I’m coming from a country with a longstanding coexistence between people from different faiths.  And if that’s more than has been successful in Morocco for centuries, it can also be possibly here in this region.

This dynamic is not just diplomatic; it should be tangible.  It should be felt by the people, and it should go into concrete, positive action which improve the lives of the people and open new horizons for the youth in our region.  And that’s why we are here.

We are here also to be a force of peace, and first to show that for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a solution is possible, and for His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the position is constant.  We are for a two-state solution, living side by side with a Palestinian state in the borders of ’67 with East Jerusalem as capital, and a solution which will preserve the security and the interests of Israel.

I think a message to the region – a positive one, but also a message to those who are enemies of this positive dynamic – here in your region, also in North Africa, acting directly or through their proxies, our message should be that we are here to defend our values, to defend our interests, and that we are creating a shield to protect this positive dynamic.

I think there should be a spirit of Negev, a spirit which is coexistence, which is tangible results, and which is building for peace and challenging positively those who are the enemies of this peace.

I hope we will meet very soon in a different desert, but with the same spirit.  I thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Your Excellency.  I know have the honor to present His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, to address us.  His Highness, please.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED:  Let me start by thanking our host.  And Yair, you are not only a partner; you are a friend.  And we are so grateful for your kind hospitality, words, but also let me thank everyone here.  It just tells us all how much of a historic moment this is for everyone on the stage, but everyone in this room and beyond.

Forty-three years ago, when Egypt and Israel made peace, unfortunately we lost those 43 years of knowing each other better, of working together, and of changing the narrative that many generations of Israelis and Arabs have been living.  I think what we are trying to achieve here today is changing the narrative, creating a different future, and building on better hope for us and for our kids and grandkids.

It’s new for, I think, Abdullatif and Nasser and myself to be in Israel.  This is our first time.  So if we are curious sometimes and we want to know things and learn, it’s because although Israel has been part of this region for a very long time and – we’ve not known each other.  So it’s time to catch up, to build on a stronger relationship.  When I see 300,000 Israelis visiting the UAE in the last year and a half, but at the same time I see 2 million visitors visiting the Israeli pavilion in Expo in only the last six months, it says how curious and how much we want to know each other.

And this is what I think goes against what happened yesterday.  It’s by our standing together, it’s by our people-to-people relationship, it’s by creating a better environment for our businesses to work with each other – that’s the way we can go after the narrative of hate, of incitement, of terror.  We will prevail, no doubt.  It’s going to cost us, but it matters.  It matters to us, and we can do better on so many areas that either were mentioned in this gathering or mentioned today or yesterday.  It’s clear to me that there is a huge potential and everyone is excited about it.

And some – Egypt showed us leadership 43 years ago.  Thank you for that.  We are just trying to follow your footsteps.  And Tony, your presence here means a great deal, the United States not only being here but encouraging us to do more and building for a better, stable, and prosperous future for all.  Thank you very much.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Your Highness.  Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the first Negev Summit.  I would like to thank all of our guest, excellencies, and their delegations for coming here to Israel, to the Negev – and hoping for many more Negev summits.  Thank you.  Toda raba.  Shukran.  (Applause.)

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