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Egyptian FM meets Netanyahu to discuss peace process

July 10, 2016 3:08 P.M. (Updated: July 22, 2016 11:44 A.M.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shukri meet on July 10, 2016. (Credit: Israeli Prime Minister's Office)
CAIRO (Ma'an) -- Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih al-Shukri met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel on Sunday, amid efforts by Egypt to play a prominent role in supporting peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel.

The visit came two weeks after al-Shukri visited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Al-Shukri’s meeting with Netanyahu is the first visit by an Egyptian foreign minister to the state of Israel since 2007, according to a statement published by Netanyahu on Sunday.

In a press conference prior to the meeting, Netanyahu called the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt one of “the cornerstones of stability in the region,” before reiterating his stance on bilateral talks with Palestinian officials as the exclusive avenue for solving the conflict.

“Today I call again on the Palestinians to follow the courageous examples of Egypt and Jordan and join us for direct negotiations,” he said. “This is the only way we can address all the outstanding problems between us and turn the vision of peace based on two states for two peoples into a reality.”

Meanwhile, al-Shukri spoke of “Egypt’s longstanding sense of responsibility towards peace for itself and all the peoples of the region, particularly the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.”

“The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has raged on for more than half a century, claiming thousands of victims, and crushing the hopes and aspirations of millions of Palestinians to establish their independent state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, as well as the aspirations of millions of Israelis to live in peace, security and stability,” al-Shukri added.

“At long as the conflict continues, it is no longer acceptable to claim that the status quo is the most that we can achieve,” the Egyptian official said. “The goal that we aim to achieve through negotiations between the two parties is one that is based on justice, legitimate rights, and mutual willingness to coexist peacefully in two neighboring independent states in peace and security.”

Spokesperson for Egypt's Foreign Ministry Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement that the visit to Israel came in support of the peace process at a crucial historical moment, amid calls by Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi to Palestinians and Israelis to work on achieving a just resolution to ensure the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Abu Zeid said al-Shukri would discuss a number of regional issues with Netanyahu, with a focus on Israeli-Palestinian confidence-building measures, and the activation of international conventions regarding the region.

The statement added that the goal was for Sunday’s meetings to lead to the renewal of direct peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leadership.

At the start of Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that the two meetings with al-Shukri, to be held Sunday afternoon and again in the evening, were “important in many ways.”

"It is indicative of the change in relations between Israel and Egypt, including al-Sisi’s important call to advance the peace process with both the Palestinians and with Arab states.”

The meetings come after France's special envoy for its peace initiative traveled to Ramallah on Saturday and met with both the Palestinian president and foreign minister to discuss preparations for an coming multilateral, international peace summit spearheaded by France.

The parallel visits were emblematic of the divergent paths of the Israeli and Palestinian governments to move forward with peace negotiations, as Netanyahu has unilaterally rejected the Palestinian Authority-supported French initiative and instead insists on direct, bilateral negotiations.

Netanyahu has welcomed Egypt’s efforts to renew peace talks through restarting the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. However, al-Sisi has also maintained his support for the French initiative as a parallel effort.
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