Egyptian top diplomat pushes for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
Egypt's foreign minister met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday about reviving peace efforts with the Palestinians, the first such visit in nearly a decade and the latest sign of warming ties.
Speaking to journalists alongside Netanyahu before their meeting, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the current lack of process towards peace was "neither stable nor sustainable", and stressed the need for "serious steps to build confidence" toward a two-state vision.
"[Shoukry] is here to see if Egypt can be the one to push the two sides, perhaps to the peace talks in Paris, or perhaps to something regional that it’s clear that the Israeli prime minister would prefer," said Irris Makler, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Israel.
"Egypt is on board and Egypt wants to put its imprint on what is happening here," added Makler.
Netanyahu welcomed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's "recent offer of Egyptian leadership and efforts to advance peace with the Palestinians and a broader peace in our region".
Shoukry’s visit and call on the Palestinians to engage in direct negotiations with Tel Aviv is seen by the Israeli press as an attempt by Sisi to reclaim the role filled by former president Hosni Mubarak before his overthrow in 2011.
The Jerusalem Post noted that Shoukry made no mention of the French initiative calling for an international peace conference, speculating that this Egyptian comeback could push Paris aside.
In June, representatives from 28 Arab and Western countries, the Arab League, the European Union and the United Nations met in Paris to discuss ways to help advance peace efforts.
Israel strongly opposes that initiative, which is being promoted by France.
"[Israel] can’t say to the Egyptians what it said to the French – that their initiative is not worth anything. It can’t say this to Sisi because the relationship is so good and important," Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s ambassador to Egypt between 2009 and 2011, told the Jerusalem Post.
Palestinian leaders say years of talks with Israel have not ended the occupation, and have instead pursued international diplomacy to promote their cause.
There have been repeated warnings that Israeli settlement building and Palestinian attacks are eroding the possibility of a two-state solution, especially with peace efforts at a standstill since April 2014.
Violence since October has killed at least 214 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese.
Egypt and Israel have cooperated in other areas, particularly after jihadists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula pledged allegiance in November 2014 to the Islamic State group.
In April, Israel's deputy chief of staff spoke of an "unprecedented level of cooperation" with Egypt, mainly regarding intelligence.
Shoukry said the situation in the Middle East was "becoming ever more volatile and dangerous, particularly as the phenomenon of terrorism continues to grow and proliferate, representing an existential threat to the peoples of the region and the world at large".
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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