Palestinian official: Egypt peace bid ‘not in conflict’ with Paris push

Senior Palestinian speaks as Abbas packs for Cairo, amid talks of Egyptian plan for Abbas-Netanyahu meet

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi listens to US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo on May 18, 2016. (Amr Nabil/Pool/AFP)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi listens to US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo on May 18, 2016. (Amr Nabil/Pool/AFP)

The Egyptian president’s Arab-Israeli peace initiative neither conflicts with, nor replaces, French moves to broker a peace deal between Jerusalem and Ramallah, a senior Palestinian official said Thursday.

The Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Cairo, Jamal al-Shoubaki, spoke in the run-up to Friday’s visit to the Egyptian capital by PA President Mahmoud Abbas for an Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting, according to the Ynet news website.

Egyptian officials have denied reports Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is working behind the scenes to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and arrange a parley with Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Cairo hopes to arrange a three-way summit “in the near future,” in which Sissi would play the role of intermediary, a Palestinian official confirmed to the Yedioth newspaper on Tuesday, adding that “no one is closing the door” on the Egyptian initiative.

Recent weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity.

On May 18, US Secretary of State John Kerry briefly visited Cairo, where Sissi’s peace overture appeared to be a focus.

That was a day before Sissi said in a televised address that he saw a “real opportunity” for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

Welcoming Sissi’s comments, Netanyahu expressed “willingness to invest every effort to advance a future of peace and security between us and the Palestinians.” He said Israel was ready to join Egypt and other Arab states in “advancing the peace process and stability in the region.”

On Monday, a delegation of senior Israeli diplomats arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials.

And on Tuesday, former UK prime minister Tony Blair said in London that Sunni Muslim countries are ready to normalize ties with Israel should Israel negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative.

First proposed in 2002 and reaffirmed in recent years, that initiative calls for full normalization between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Golan Heights.

France’s plan, the subject of discussion Monday during a meeting in Jerusalem between French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Netanyahu, has been rejected out of hand by Israel. The proposal calls for a June 3 international conference that would not include Israeli or Palestinian representatives, followed by an autumn conference with the two sides in attendance.

Netanyahu has criticized the initiative as providing an excuse for Palestinian leaders to avoid direct peace talks with Israel.

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