Egyptian President discusses Palestine-Israel peace prospects with Abbas

Abdel Fattah El Sisi met Mahmoud Abbas a day after both spoke with Jordan's King Abdullah, as Arab leaders prepare for Biden US administration

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Monday met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, as Arab leaders sought a united stand on Palestinian-Israeli peace before the US administration of Joe Biden takes power.

Talks between the two leaders came a day after Mr Abbas met King Abdullah II in Jordan’s Red Sea resort of Aqaba, where the monarch reaffirmed his support for Palestinian rights.

Later on Sunday, King Abdullah and Mr El Sisi discussed ways to “revive” the Palestinian-IsraeIi peace process during a telephone conversation, the Egyptian presidency said.

“The Palestinian issue will always have a priority in Egypt’s policy,” Mr El Sisi told Mr Abbas.

Egypt “fully supported Palestinian choices and positions toward a political settlement".

“The two presidents agreed to continue intense consultations and co-ordination to follow up on future steps designed to change the status quo and a return to the negotiating table,” presidential spokesman Bassam Rady said.

A report by the official Palestinian Wafa news agency said Mr El Sisi stressed to Mr Abbas Egypt’s “continuing support” for the Palestinians until they win their legitimate rights and have an independent state on land occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Like Mr El Sisi, King Abdullah and Mr Abbas are hoping for a shift in US policy under Mr Biden to revive prospects for a two-state solution, which they perceive as having weakened under President Donald Trump’s plan for Middle East peace.

Unveiled in January, the plan ignored Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem and other land, and overlooked the illegality of Israeli settlements in territory occupied since the 1967 Middle East war.

Egypt has not publicly supported the plan, which was opposed by Jordan.

Official Jordanian media on Sunday said King Abdullah told Mr Abbas that Jordan also stood “with all of its capacity and abilities” behind realising a “sovereign and viable” Palestinian state on land Israel occupied in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“The king affirmed the existing legal and historic status of Jerusalem, emphasising the kingdom’s rejection of all unilateral arrangements that aim at changing the identity of the city and its holy places,” the Petra government news agency said.

The Trump peace plan left the old heart of East Jerusalem under Israeli occupation. This includes Al Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, and other religious sites under Jordanian custody.

The meeting in Aqaba was the first between King Abdullah and Mr Abbas since Washington brokered landmark accords in August between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.

Sudan last month announced the normalisation of relations with Israel.

According to unconfirmed reports, Israel sent its first delegation to Khartoum last week, to discuss military co-operation.

The Palestinian Authority opposed the US-sponsored deals between Israel and the three Arab nations.

Jordan and Egypt said the deals could revive Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Jordan followed in 1995.

Last week, King Abdullah spoke with Mr Biden by phone, becoming the first Arab head of state to do so since the Democrat was elected.

A statement by Mr Biden's office said he looked forward “to working closely with King Abdullah on the many interests shared by our countries”.

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