Among the issues reportedly discussed during Monday’s 150-minute meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, were “ideas” for a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace summit to be held in Washington this coming summer.
While the initiative is in its beginning stages, the discussions complemented the recent meetings US Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt held with Arab leaders, American diplomatic sources told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper in a report Tuesday morning.
At the Arab League Summit in Jordan last week, Greenblatt told Arab foreign ministers that Trump was committed to reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians that would “reverberate” throughout the Middle East and the world.
Greenblatt attended the summit as an “observer,” meeting with ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Qatar on its sidelines, as well as with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
During the summit Sissi said that his country had “sought and continues to seek a comprehensive and just solution to this issue, based on the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
During their Monday sit-down, which was characterized as “warm” and “positive,” Sissi told Trump, “You, Mr. President, can find a solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, pledging his country’s full support for any effort that would bring about a resolution.
The Egyptian president said peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be “the deal of the century,” echoing language used by Trump.
“You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me,” Trump told Sissi, sweeping aside his predecessor’s concerns about democratic abuses in Egypt.
According to the Dubai-based al-Khaleej Times, Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II were to present Trump with a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal during their respective visits to the White House this week.
Abdullah’s White House visit is scheduled for Wednesday.
The initiative would reportedly start with a series of gestures, including a long-delayed release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and a complete moratorium on all Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
Trump would then respond to the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative during his meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, tentatively scheduled for later this month in Washington.
While al-Khaleej also reported that Trump is aiming to host an international peace conference, the Dubai paper suggested it would be held in September.
Trump signaled a new era in US-Egypt relations on Monday, assuring Sissi that years of tepid relations will now give way to a “great bond” between their two nations.
“This is my first state visit to the United States since my inauguration and this is the first visit in eight years for an Egyptian president to the United States,” Sissi pointed out at the start of his remarks.
Former president Barack Obama never invited the Egyptian leader to the White House and Egypt’s government was repeatedly admonished over its human rights record. Obama even briefly suspended some US military aid.
Reflecting on their first encounter in New York shortly before the general election, Trump said Sissi is someone “very close to me.”
Sissi, in turn, hailed Trump for his “unique personality” and said that after their first meeting, “I bet on you,” the latter being comments he made in Arabic that were not translated.
“Together, we will fight terrorism and other things and we’re going to be friends for a very, very long time,” Trump said, citing a “great bond with the people of Egypt.”
Sissi vowed to work with the US “to counter this evil ideology that is claiming innocent lives, that is bringing devastation to communities and nations and that is terrorizing the innocent people.”
Since the military overthrew Egypt’s first post-revolution president, the popularly elected Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, Sissi has cracked down on political Islamists. Sissi also has taken a heavy hand on Egyptians who’ve deemed his presidency illegitimate, often relegating human rights concerns to national security.
But Sissi’s government believes its success in fighting radicalism depends critically on US aid.
For Trump and Sissi, it was also a meeting of kindred spirits.
Both maintain a contentious relationship with the media and believe “bad” or “evil” people are infiltrating their borders. Both whip up supporters with talk of victories and seek to project a mystic sense of inevitable success. They’ve both challenged whether their country’s judges are acting as roadblocks to democracy.
Sissi, like Trump, is widely viewed as a polarizing figure in his country. That view manifesting itself on the streets outside the White House Monday, where rival protests for and opposing both Trump and Sissi swelled before the Egyptian’s arrival.
In the sea of American and Egyptian flags, some chanted “We love el-Sissi, we love Trump!” Others held signs of Sissi and Trump and chanted “Illegitimate,” a cry harkening back to the Arab Spring.
Tamar Pileggi and Dov Lieber contributed to this report.