Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said Tuesday there is now a “real opportunity” for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement that would also lead to warmer ties between Egypt and the Jewish state.
In a live televised speech that included a rare direct appeal to Palestinians and Israelis, Sissi urged the two sides to draw hope from the “real and stable peace” between Israel and Egypt.
“There is an Arab initiative, there is currently a French initiative, and there are American efforts” to broker an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, he said.
His 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.”
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.”
Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog welcomed Sissi’s support for the French initiative, which he said shows peace is possible.
“I welcome the announcement,” he said, “This is a dramatic announcement that shows the possibility of a historic process. It is our duty to examine it seriously; otherwise we will find ourselves doing so after the next funeral. It is vital to listen to the Egyptian president and take a serious and responsible look at this opportunity.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office was not immediately available to comment on Sissi’s announcement and, the Foreign Ministry also declined to comment.
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.
Despite the postponement, responding to a question by The Times of Israel, the French embassy in Israel said that President Manuel Valls will go ahead with his planned trip to Israel next week.
Valls will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories in a bid to relaunch the peace process following the worst flare-up of violence in the Gaza Strip in two years, his office said Tuesday.
During his May 21-24 visit, Valls will meet with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and is scheduled to travel to Ramallah where he will hold talks with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. He will also meet President Reuven Rivlin, former prime minister Shimon Peres and opposition leader Herzog.