A hopeful Sissi pushes for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
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A hopeful Sissi pushes for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

Following Paris summit, Egypt's president says resolving conflict would result in better situation for entire region

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, greets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, on June 8, 2014. (AP/MENA)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, greets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, on June 8, 2014. (AP/MENA)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi stressed Friday his support for a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that he believed achieving a peace deal would have a major positive effect on the region.

“We must seek a situation in which the countries of the region are convinced of the importance of progress in the peace process,” Sissi said during a pre-recorded interview broadcast on Egyptian news channels to mark his second anniversary as president.

“In Egypt we took a step 40 years ago and the results were astounding, we can achieve another such step on the same level by persuasion,” Sissi said, referring to the Israel-Egypt peace deal signed between then-prime minister Menachem Begin and then-president Anwar Sadat.

Sissi welcomed recent initiatives by the international community aimed at advancing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Much is being invested in international efforts, and the French initiative is on the agenda,” he said, referring France’s move to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with a summit in Paris on Friday. “The Palestinian issue was neglected in recent years due to events in the region, It is important for us to shed light on this issue, and if we solve it we will all live in a better situation,” Sissi concluded.

The Egyptian president’s statements came hours after the one-day Israeli-Palestinian peace summit in Paris — to which the Israelis and Palestinians were not invited — which concluded with a warning that violence and settlement activity are imperiling a two-state solution, and a call for an international conference on the issue before the end of the year.

The closing communique did not set a firm timetable for further efforts, however. And while France portrayed Friday’s meeting as a first step by the international community to weigh different options, the Americans have been chilly towards the talks, although Secretary of State John Kerry attended, and Israel has flatly opposed to French efforts, calling instead on the Palestinians to enter direct peace talks without conditions.

French President Francois Hollande (C), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C-L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C-R), US Secretary of State John Kerry (4th R), European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini (3rd R) and officials pose for a group photo at an international meeting in a bid to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in Paris, on June 3, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Kamil Zihnioglu)
French President Francois Hollande (C), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C-L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C-R), US Secretary of State John Kerry (4th R), European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini (3rd R) and officials pose for a group photo at an international meeting in a bid to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in Paris, on June 3, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Kamil Zihnioglu)

The closing communique was less harsh toward Israel than members of the Arab League had sought, and its general emphasis on the two-state solution represented a compromise in which the United States and the European Union tempered an effort by the Arab League to make a statement that was more critical of Israel’s policies, Western diplomats told Haaretz.

The foreign ministers of the United States, European nations, and several Arab states were among those attending the meeting. No Israeli or Palestinian officials were invited. Germany, Russia and Britain did not send their foreign ministers.

Ahead of the summit, an internal document sent by the French Foreign Ministry to participating nations had anticipated that “ministers will agree on the principle that a clear timetable will need to be established for the negotiations when they restart, and that some interim review might be necessary to gauge the seriousness of the process.” No such binding timetable was publicized, however.

Israel has been adamant in its utter rejection of the French initiative, arguing that only bilateral talks can lead to progress. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he seeks a two-state solution, with a demilitarized Palestine that recognize Israel as the Jewish state. In a telephone conversation with Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, Netanyahu, however, “said yes” to new efforts led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia for regional progress toward peace, Channel 2 reported.

On Monday, Netanyahu offered to negotiate with the Arab world on the parameters of a regional peace plan, as part of the Arab Peace Initiative, which Israel which calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War and an agreed resolution to the issue of Palestinian refugees, in return for normalized relations with the Arab world.

“I take this opportunity to make clear that I remain committed to making peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors. The Arab Peace Initiative contains positive elements that could help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu declared in the Knesset.

“We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in our region since 2002, but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples.”

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