Abbas welcomes Egyptian president’s peace push
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Abbas welcomes Egyptian president’s peace push

Hamas terror group hails call for Palestinian unity, makes no mention of appeal for negotiations

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday welcomed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s bid for new peace talks, while the Hamas terror group hailed his call for internal Palestinian reconciliation.

In a rare direct appeal to Palestinians and Israelis, Sissi had urged the two peoples to draw hope from the “real and stable peace” between Israel and Egypt. In a live televised statement, Sissi said he saw a “real opportunity” for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement that would also lead to warmer ties between Egypt and the Jewish state.

In response, Abbas praised “Egypt’s historic role in supporting Palestinian affairs,” the Hebrew-language Walla news site reported.

In a statement on its website, Hamas wrote that it “welcomes the Egyptian statements for realizing Palestinian reconciliation, and emphasizes [its] readiness to deal with all the efforts to achieve reconciliation and restore national unity.”

The statement made no mention of Sissi’s support for fresh efforts to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was willing to engage with Arab states to advance a peace deal with the Palestinians.

“Israel is ready to participate with Egypt and other Arab states in advancing both the diplomatic process and stability in the region,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “I appreciate President el-Sissi’s work and am encouraged by the leadership he has shown on this important issue.”

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo on April 17, 2016 (AFP/Khaled Desouki)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo on April 17, 2016 (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Sissi’s speech came hours after Paris announced that a Middle East peace conference initially slated to take place in the coming weeks would be postponed to ensure the US would be able to attend.

France has made clear that despite the postponement, it plans to push ahead with the initiative to revive the moribund peace process.

Expressing support for the French proposal, Sissi added that Egypt is prepared to “make every effort” to contribute to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

The Egyptian leader urged Israeli parties and leaders to “please, reach an agreement so a solution can be found” and called for “a real reconciliation, and quickly” between Palestinian factions, offering Cairo’s full support.

“If we are able to — all of us together — with effort and a real will and devotion, find a solution for this issue, and find hope for the Palestinians and security for the Israelis, I am telling you a new page will be written,” he said.

Sissi said that Israelis and Palestinians need look no further than the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty to see the positive outcome of peacemaking. He said the level of animosity between Egypt and Israel that had existed prior to the conclusion of the landmark accord was no different from how the Palestinians and Israelis feel now.

In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel.

“Maybe some people can say this peace is not warm,” Sissi said. “I tell them a warmer peace will be achieved if we were able to resolve the issues of our Palestinian brothers.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to journalists before a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in Paris, Monday, May 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to journalists before a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in Paris, Monday, May 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The French summit, which is set to include representatives from 20 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, was due to take place on May 30 but was postponed by France so that US Secretary of State John Kerry would be able to attend.

“Kerry cannot come on May 30 so it has been delayed. It will take place in the summer,” French President Francois Hollande told French radio Tuesday.

The State Department said Monday that Kerry would be unavailable on the day of the conference, which falls on Memorial Day, but that the United States and France are looking into a possible alternative date for the ministerial discussions.

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that a new date at the beginning of June “will be set soon.”

While the Palestinian Authority welcomed the summit in a press release on its official website, Hamas has said the announcement of its postponement was further proof of the failure of the peace process, which the group officially rejects.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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