The Palestinian Authority must take charge of the crossings in and out of the Gaza Strip, and restore control to the coastal area, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi told PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a meeting Saturday in New York, Al Jazeera reported.
The two met on the sidelines of a United Nations summit on climate change, as world leaders gathered in New York for the annual UN General Assembly, the report said.
During the meeting, Sissi said PA control over the Gaza access points would have major impact on the Rafah crossing between the Strip and Egypt.
According to the report, Sissi stressed that the Palestinian issue remains “an issue for all Arab states,” a statement for which Abbas thanked the president.
In an interview with the Associated Press published Sunday, Sissi said he would like to see Egyptian-style peace treaties with Israel extended to include other countries of the region.
Resolving the Palestinian question, Sissi said in the interview, could “change the face of the region and … bring about enormous improvement to the situation. … I’m optimistic by nature and I say that there is a great opportunity.”
The comments were lauded by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office said that “Prime Minister Netanyahu urges PA President Mahmoud Abbas once again to return immediately to the negotiating table to advance the diplomatic process,” the statement said.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who has been calling for a regional peace initiative, also welcomed Sissi’s remarks.
“Sissi’s remarks prove that today we have an opportunity to advance a regional initiative with moderate Arab states,” he said. “This sort of accord would allow us to forge an axis of moderate states against Iran and against growing terror in the Middle East, and will uphold Israel’s security interests and its existence as a Jewish state.”
The Egyptian leader has been fighting an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula and Egyptian officials have several times warned Hamas, the terror group in control of Gaza, against helping any of the radical groups operating against sovereign Egypt in the Sinai.
The PA was kicked out from the Gaza Strip in 2007, when Hamas overtook the territory in a violent coup. Several efforts at a Palestinian unity government failed and the PA led by Abbas remains an enemy of Hamas.
Abbas last met Sissi in Cairo on September 9. Sissi at the time stressed “Egypt’s readiness to be positively involved in any diplomatic efforts aimed at reaching a fair and comprehensive settlement,” between Israel and the Palestinians.