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Amid normalization push, Egypt, Jordan, PA say only 2 states will solve conflict

Meeting in Cairo, foreign ministers agree to seek cooperation on Palestinian statehood with incoming Biden administration, speak out against settlement expansion

File: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, left, gives a joint statement with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, July 20, 2020. (Mohamad Torokman/Pool via AP)
File: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, left, gives a joint statement with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, July 20, 2020. (Mohamad Torokman/Pool via AP)

The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority met in Cairo Saturday, reaffirming that the resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict must be based on the two-state solution.

“The overriding goal that we seek is to reach a just solution to the Palestinian issue in accordance with international decisions,” Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukri said in a statement at the meeting with Jordan’s Ayman al-Safadi and the Palestinian Authority’s Riyad al-Malki.

Discussing developments in the region, the three agreed to seek cooperation with the incoming US administration in finding regional solutions. They said they hoped US President-elect Joe Biden would change course from the policies of outgoing President Donald Trump, under whose watch American-Palestinian relations reached a nadir.

Malki said that “the signals we’ve received from President-elect Biden regarding the Palestinian issue are a message confirming his commitment to all the agreements signed between us.

“We are ready to cooperate with the new American administration, and we expect it to reformulate its relationship with the state of Palestine,” he said.

He called on the international community to pressure Israel to halt settlement expansion and adhere to previous agreements.

Safadi said the Palestinian issue remained “the first central issue for the Arabs,” adding that “peace is a strategic choice” for the sides.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi delivers his speech during a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) conference, in Rome, March 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

And he warned that Israel’s settlement expansion policies “undermine efforts for a comprehensive solution, amid the stalemate in the negotiation process.”

The meeting came as Palestinians have seen cracks in traditional Arab solidarity with their cause, with four majority-Arab nations agreeing to normalize relations with Israel.

The Arab world had previously kept to a position that no relations would be forged with Israel before a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is reached.

But amid an intense diplomatic drive by the Trump administration, recent months have seen the announcement of full ties between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Earlier this month Israeli television reported that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas he intends to broker peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

During their meeting in Cairo, Sissi and Abbas agreed the Egyptian president would separately invite the Israeli and PA foreign ministers to Egypt for talks on renewing negotiations, the unsourced report said.

It said the talks would be held under the auspices of Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany.

Abbas reportedly said that while he supports the Egyptian initiative, he still intends to push for an international conference that will include the so-called Middle East Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) and has reached out to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the matter.

Abbas met with Sissi and with Jordanian King Abdullah II following the resumption of coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, after nearly six months in which Ramallah publicly severed all ties between the two parties over Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. The PA president cannot travel without approval by Israeli authorities.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits the Israel-Lebanon border on November 17, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

While that annexation plan was shelved in August as part of the normalization accords with the United Arab Emirates, coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel did not resume until November.

In early December, Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

“The entire Middle East is changing, and substantial regional processes are moving forward, including [Israel’s] normalization agreements with Arab nations, that are helping… develop the region’s economy and its stability,” he said.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi met with Safadi at the Allenby Bridge Border Crossing on December 3, the first meeting between the two, and the first time in years that the top diplomats of the two countries have had an official sit-down.

A statement released by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said Safadi and Ashkenazi discussed “a number of pending concerns, including water rights, lifting restrictions on Jordanian exports to the West Bank, Jordanian provision of additional electricity to the Palestinian Authority, and organizing movement through border crossings in light of their closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Safadi’s office also said he emphasized the need to restart bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in light of the PA’s recent decision to resume security coordination with Israel.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the meeting, but declined to provide further details.

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