Israeli delegation in Cairo to discuss peace push — report
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Israeli delegation in Cairo to discuss peace push — report

Officials said set to meet for several hours on Egyptian initiative, other unspecified matters, days after Abbas signals willingness to join talks

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi marks the first anniversary of the inauguration of an expansion of the Suez Canal, in Suez, Egypt, Saturday, August 6, 2016. (MENA, Egypt's state news agency, via AP)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi marks the first anniversary of the inauguration of an expansion of the Suez Canal, in Suez, Egypt, Saturday, August 6, 2016. (MENA, Egypt's state news agency, via AP)

An Israeli delegation was reportedly in Cairo on Sunday to meet with Egyptian officials on President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s proposal to revive the peace process.

Israeli officials were scheduled to meet their Egyptian counterparts on Palestinian peace talks, as well as other matters related to the two countries, the DPA news agency reported.

The talks were set to last several hours, according to the report by the Germany agency.

Last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly informed Egypt he is no longer opposed to participating in a regional or international peace summit in Cairo.

According to a report on Israel Radio on Friday, the Palestinian leader told an Egyptian delegation in Ramallah that he was willing to attend such a conference, but stressed that the Egyptian peace push would not replace the French initiative to revive talks, which the Palestinians have favored, but Israel has strongly opposed.

The PA president also reportedly asked that France, Russia and Switzerland attend the summit.

Abbas urged Egypt to press Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction and release Palestinian prisoners ahead of a meeting between the two leaders in Egypt, the report said, but Cairo’s position on the proposed preconditions was not immediately clear.

In July, Palestinian leaders presented several preconditions for participating in a trilateral Israeli-Egyptian-Palestinian peace summit in Cairo, including a freeze on Israeli settlement construction, a Palestinian official told The Times of Israel. Abbas also demanded that Israel acquiesce to negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines and pledge ahead of time to implement any agreements reached in the talks.

Netanyahu in July reportedly told Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry — on a rare visit to Jerusalem — he would be willing to meet with Abbas in Cairo for talks hosted by Sissi. The Prime Minister’s Office did not deny the report by the Saudi-owned, pan-Arab news outlet Al-Arabiya. It said in a statement that “whether the issue was discussed or not, Israel has always said it is prepared to conduct direct bilateral negotiations with no preconditions.”

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

 

Sissi reportedly offered to host direct talks between the sides as part of Cairo’s initiative to kick-start the moribund peace process.

Shoukry’s visit to Israel was the first by an Egyptian foreign minister since 2007. The visit came amid speculation 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.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, speaks at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York, September 25, 2015. (AFP Photo/Dominick Reuter)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, speaks at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York, September 25, 2015. (AFP Photo/Dominick Reuter)

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 as 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.”

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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