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Egyptian FM speaks with Israeli, PA counterparts to build momentum for talks

According to statement by Cairo, conversations come as part of efforts to renewing peace process, amid Palestinian push for peace conference

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)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke with his Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) counterparts on Wednesday afternoon as part of an attempt to prepare for a meeting intended to “advance peace in the region,” according to a statement by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

According to the statement, the three top diplomats — Shoukry, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, and PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki — spoke in advance of a meeting before France, Germany, Jordan and Egypt to “discuss new ways to advance the peace process.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said in recent weeks that he is seeking to set up an “international peace conference” under the auspices of the United Nations and the so-called Middle East Quartet — the UN, US, Russia, and the European Union — with an eye towards establishing a Palestinian state.

“Coordination is taking place at the level of the two foreign ministers as well with the Palestinian side within the framework of the necessary preparation for the Quartet meeting,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in its statement on Wednesday.

So far, however, few public advances have been made to engage Israel on the initiative, and Abbas’s project has largely sunk without a trace.

The Israelis and the Palestinians have engaged in bilateral talks several times since the signing of the first agreements between the two parties in the 1990s. Each round of so-called final status negotiations — often under American auspices — to end the conflict have thus far ended in bitter recriminations from both sides.

Palestinians often lamented what they deemed biased mediation by Washington, while Israelis charged that Palestinians were not serious about their peace plans, repeatedly rejecting their offers without providing alternatives.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the phone call.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a leadership meeting at his headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on September 3, 2020. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool Photo via AP)

Abbas introduced the idea for the conference in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September. In the intervening months, Palestinian diplomats have flown to Egypt and Jordan, reportedly in service of the international conference. In a speech last week, Abbas reiterated his desire to advance the initiative.

“We’ve called for an international peace conference to be held in the first half of next year, under the auspices of the International Quartet, the only body authorized to sponsor negotiations,” Abbas said.

Abbas has said that his ideal peace conference would seek to advance “an end the occupation and grant the Palestinian people their freedom and independence in their own state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and settle final-status issues, notably the refugee question.”

A specific date for the meeting between Egypt, Jordan, France, and Germany has yet to be publicly announced.

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