Egypt said offering to host direct Netanyahu-Abbas talks

As Cairo FM makes rare visit to Israel, Palestinian officials say Sissi’s proposed tripartite summit will seek to deescalate regional tensions

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Sunday, July 10, 2016 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Sunday, July 10, 2016 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has reportedly offered to host direct talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as part of Cairo’s fresh efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The tripartite summit, which would also be attended by senior officials from Jordan and Egypt, would seek to engage in confidence-building measures in an effort to calm the 10-month surge in violence in the West Bank, Palestinian officials told both the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper and Israel’s Haaretz daily.

The reports comes on the heels of Sunday’s rare visit to Israel by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem in an apparent effort to further Sissi’s bid for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

Shoukry’s visit to Israel was the first by an Egyptian foreign minister since 2007. Recently, Israel has emerged as a discreet ally of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who has positioned himself as a central player in jump-starting the stalemated peace process.

The Shoukry visit came amid chatter over the renewal of an Arab peace initiative and as Israel’s military recently saluted “unprecedented” intelligence cooperation with Egypt to combat the Islamic State group.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C) talks during the closing session of an African summit meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on June 10, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

Speaking to journalists alongside Netanyahu before their meeting on Sunday, Shoukry said this was a “crucial and challenging juncture for the Middle East.” Cairo, he added, is dedicated to “a just and comprehensive peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people.”

“The goal we aim to achieve through negotiations between the two parties is one that is based on justice, legitimate rights and mutual willingness to coexist peacefully in two neighboring independent states in peace and security,” he said.

“Egypt remains ready to assist in achieving this goal,” he said, stressing that “such a momentous achievement will have a far-reaching, dramatic and positive impact on the overall conditions in the Middle East. The current state of affairs is, unfortunately, neither stable nor sustainable.”

Shoukry, who visited Abbas in the West Bank last month, urged leaders from both sides to resume negotiations.

According to Israel’s Channel 2 television, Shoukry’s surprise visit was also aimed at arranging a first meeting between Netanyahu and Sissi in Egypt in the coming months.

The TV report said Shoukry’s first visit to Israel was coordinated between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, whose Arab Peace Initiative is backed by Sissi and much of the Arab world, and would form the basis of any regional peace effort. Netanyahu has rejected the initiative in its current form, but said in late May that it “contains positive elements that could help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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