Egypt hosts three-way summit on Palestinian issue

Leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Palestine meet in Cairo in attempt to find ways to resume stalled peace talks

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Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Thursday hosted a three-way summit with the king of Jordan and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Cairo's latest attempt to restart long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Cairo summit was preceded by separate meetings between the Egyptian leader and King Abdullah II and Mr Abbas.

During the summit, the three leaders sought to "co-ordinate positions and visions on a host of topics related to the Palestinian issue", according to a statement issued by Mr El Sisi’s media office.

Mr El Sisi said progress in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could come only after Palestinian factions set aside their differences.

"The realisation of the Palestinian people's hopes for an independent state will not come except after unifying ranks and ending the long-time divisions between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank," the Egyptian president said.

The militant group Hamas in 2007 expelled from Gaza representatives of the moderate, West Bank-based Palestinian Authority led by Mr Abbas.

Hamas has been the sole ruler of the Mediterranean coastal strip since then as differences between the two sides deepened. Repeated attempts by Egypt to reconcile the two factions have failed. Egypt, however, has mediated an end to several rounds of violence in Gaza between Hamas and the Israelis.

Mr El Sisi's office said the summit "emphasised the need to integrate efforts by partners and brothers to revive the peace process and resume negotiations on the basis of legitimate international resolutions".

US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.

Thursday’s summit followed a flurry of diplomatic activity involving Egypt, Jordan and Israel to find a formula acceptable to the Palestinians and Israelis to resume direct negotiations.

The intensified diplomatic contacts are rooted in large part in the hope that the departure in June of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister for more than a decade, could offer an opportunity to revive peace efforts.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met King Abdullah in Amman. The Jordanian monarch later met US President Joe Biden in the White House, where he raised the issue of Palestinian-Israeli talks.

In an interview with CNN, King Abdullah said he was encouraged after his meeting with the Israeli leader. “We really have to get back to the [negotiating] table,” he said.

The king met the Palestinian president in Amman soon after his return from Washington. During that meeting, Jordan’s state news agency said the monarch “affirmed the need to intensify international efforts to achieve a just peace”.

Egypt, for its part, has shown an appetite for effecting movement in the stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks since it successfully mediated an end to an 11-day war in the summer between Israel and Hamas.

Cairo has since quietly tried to cement the cessation of hostilities between the two sides, reconcile rival Palestinian factions and press ahead with a comprehensive reconstruction of the coastal strip.

The Cairo summit comes amid signs of what may be relative easing of tension between Mr Abbas's government and the Israelis. Israel's Defence Minister Benny Gantz travelled on Sunday to the Palestinian self-rule area in the West Bank for talks with the Palestinian leader, the highest-level meeting between the two sides in years.

However, Prime Minister Bennett, a nationalist who opposes Palestinian statehood, said the meeting was "routine".

"There is no diplomatic process with the Palestinians, nor will there be one," a source close to the Israeli leader told Reuters the day after the meeting.

But Israeli officials said on Monday that the government would lend the cash-starved Palestinian Authority $150 million.

Khaled Yacoub Oweis contributed to this report from Amman, Jordan

Updated: September 08, 2021, 5:23 PM