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Trump, Sissi said to agree on peace summit ‘very soon’

Saudis reportedly may attend, in what would mark a major shift in policy for the powerful Gulf kingdom

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

US President Donald Trump (R) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi take part in a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump (R) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi take part in a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

US President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi agreed on Sunday during their meeting in Riyadh to hold a peace summit “very soon,” in order to forge a road map for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Arab media reported.

The summit, according to a report Monday in the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, would take place either in Washington or the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, and would include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and a Jordanian representative.

Egyptian diplomatic sources were quoted as saying that the Saudis expressed “interest “in “directly” participating in the negotiations, though no agreement on the matter was reached on Sunday.

If Riyadh did participate, it would represent a major shift in Saudi policy, as the powerful Gulf kingdom has never sat down at the negotiating table with Israelis and Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and other officials pose for a group photo during the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (AFP/ MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and other officials pose for a group photo during the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (AFP/ MANDEL NGAN)

While Trump was visiting Riyadh on Saturday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said his kingdom “stands prepared to work with the United States in order to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians and Israelis and Arabs.”

The arrangements for the summit will reportedly be finalized by telephone after Trump’s visit to Israel on Monday and Tuesday. The peace summit would likely take place in the coming weeks, the report said.

When Trump and Sissi first met at the White House in April, the two reportedly already began discussions for holding the summit.

Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the report, and an Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Washington has been busy over the last month laying the groundwork to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Trump is set to arrive in Israel early Monday afternoon in a visit that will also include a stop in the West Bank. He is expected to use the visit to advance his goal of achieving what he’s termed the “ultimate deal” between the two sides.

During a February meeting with Netanyahu at the White House, Trump said he wanted to pursue “a much bigger deal” in the Middle East, which would include “many, many countries.”

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