Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday met with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in New York in the first-ever public sit-down between the two leaders.
Netanyahu and Sissi were in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
The two leaders had “a comprehensive discussion about the problems of the region,” according to a readout provided by the Prime Minister’s Office. Sissi “expressed his desire to assist in efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the region,” it said.
The hour-and-a-half-long meeting took place at the Palace Hotel, where the Egyptian president was staying.
“It’s a great pleasure to have this meeting with you,” Sissi told Netanyahu at the start of the meeting, speaking through a translator.
Netanyahu was known to have met with Sissi in February 2016, when the two attended a secret summit in Aqaba with former US secretary of state John Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
That covert meeting was part of a push to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and seek recognition of Israel as a Jewish state by Arab countries, the Haaretz daily reported in February. He again met Sissi in Cairo in April 2016, the newspaper reported.
Since they established diplomatic relations in 1978 after years of hostility and a series of wars, ties between Israel and Egypt have historically been civil but frosty. However, the two countries have enjoyed closer intelligence and security ties in recent years over their shared enmity towards Islamist terror groups and other common regional concerns.
Sissi met with a group of US Jewish leaders in New York earlier Monday, during which he said he was optimistic about the Trump administration’s efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, the Haaretz daily reported.
Sissi has previously met with American Jewish leaders on a number of occasions.
The Egyptian leader also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in New York earlier on Monday.
Also Monday, Netanyahu sat down with US President Donald Trump. The prime minister was also set to hold a series of meetings later in the day with world leaders at the UN, including with the president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela; the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe; and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Ahead of their meeting, Trump reiterated his desire to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and told the visiting Netanyahu there was a “good chance” such an accord could happen.
After the meeting, Netanyahu stressed that the lion’s share of the talks were not focused on renewing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. “I agreed with his willingness to reach peace with the Palestinians, and I insist on our vital national interests, including security,” he told reporters.
“He has a strong willingness to advance peace, and the issue of general reconciliation with the Arab word,” the prime minister went on, referring to Trump.
Netanyahu also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.