(February 27, 2023 / JNS) India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States – the group known as I2U2 – met in Abu Dhabi on February 22 to discuss food security. After the meeting, a senior US official told reporters that the organization is working with other countries to alleviate the current international food crisis.
US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment Jose W. Fernandez visited the UAE along with US Special Envoy for Global Food Security Cary Fowler. Fernandez chaired talks with UAE Minister of State Ahmed Sayegh; Indian Foreign Ministry Secretary for Economic Relations Dammu Ravi; Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Ronen Levy.
In a conference call with reporters, the deputy minister said the nearly one-and-a-half-year-old I2U2 group helped people in the region better integrate their economies and pursue a positive agenda in the Middle East and Asia.
“It’s a great example of fostering trusted regional partnerships that can create collaborative business opportunities and well-paying jobs,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez added that I2U2 promotes increased joint investments and initiatives across six sectors: water, energy, transportation, space, health and food security.
“I2U2 reinforces the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of advancing regional integration in the Middle East, building on the Abraham Accords and other normalization agreements,” he said.
The four countries established I2U2 in October 2021 as an intergovernmental forum for economic cooperation. The group was formed during a phone call between U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his counterparts in Israel, the United Arab Emirates and India.
U.S. President Joe Biden, then Israeli Prime Minister Yar Lapid, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mohamed bin Zayed – then de facto ruler of the UAE and current president – attended Virtual I2U2 conference last July.
At that meeting, the leaders agreed to create an Israel-backed food corridor between the UAE and India in response to wheat shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Israel and the UAE have provided $300 million in financing for clean energy projects in India.
The next day, Feb. 23, Fernandez told reporters that food corridors and clean energy funding were part of “the efforts of these four countries to find ways to alleviate the hunger we’re seeing around the world, and we’re making the situation worse with the invasion.” “
“We are committed to supporting efforts to find new markets and build food systems, because we believe this is the only way to reduce the enormous need for humanitarian assistance and address food security,” he said.
Fernandez continued that I2U2 is working to improve its “ability to provide sufficient, affordable and nutritious food by advancing agriculture and understanding how we can adapt and prepare for the expected impacts of climate change.” He told reporters that the group’s projects would also attract other countries.
“A Day of Celebration in Israel”
As China’s influence in West Asia grows, Fernandez insists that I2U2 will not confront other countries, but will work with the public and private sectors to solve problems. Technology, especially green technology, is an area of focus for all four countries.
After the call with reporters, Fernandez traveled to Oman for the first session of the U.S.-Arab Strategic Dialogue.On that day, Oman announced its intention to open airspace All airlines, including EL AL. It marked a major diplomatic achievement and significantly shortened the distance and time it takes for Israeli flights to travel east.
Washington had previously received permission from Saudi Arabia for the flyover, but it needed Oman to join for it to be effective.
Responding to a question from JNS, Fernandez said he was not aware of any link between the start of the strategic dialogue and Oman’s airspace announcement. The dialogue focused on trade and investment, clean energy and strengthening cultural and educational ties, he said.
Israeli officials have credited the State Department and White House for helping the airspace arrangement become a reality. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen thanked Biden, the White House staff, the State Department and the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem for “driving this initiative and being with it all the way to its success.”
“It’s definitely a day for Israel to celebrate,” he said.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Oman’s statement “advances President Biden’s vision for a more integrated, stable and prosperous Middle East region, which is important to the American people and to our The security and prosperity of regional partners is paramount.”
“For the first time in history, passengers traveling to and from Israel will now be able to fly nonstop between Israel, Asia and points in between,” she said. “The United States is pleased to support these efforts through months of quiet diplomatic engagement .”