Egypt’s Sissi said to tell Abbas he intends to broker Israeli-Palestinian talks

Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he intends to broker peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Israeli television reported Friday.

During their meeting in Cairo this week, Sissi and Abbas agreed the Egyptian president would separately invite the Israeli and PA foreign ministers to Egypt for talks on renewing negotiations, according to Channel 12 news.

The unsourced report said the talks would be held under the auspices of Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany.

Abbas reportedly said that while he supports the Egyptian initiative, he still intends to push for an international conference that will include the so-called Middle East Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) and has reached out to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the matter.

There was no mention of the reported Egyptian initiative in statements on the meeting from Egypt and the PA.

“Sissi confirmed that the Palestinian issue will remain a priority for Egypt’s policy and underlined Egypt’s unwavering position in this regard, as well as its full support for the Palestinian choices for a political settlement,” Sissi’s spokesman said Sunday.

The PA leader traveled to Egypt after meeting in Jordan with King Abdullah II, where Abbas’s office said the two discussed “developments in the Palestinian sphere.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Jordanian King Abdullah II on November 29, 2020. (WAFA)

The state visits were Abbas’s first since a February trip to the United Nations Security Council, where he condemned US President Donald Trump’s controversial peace plan.

Abbas’s meetings with fellow Arab leaders follow the resumption of coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority after nearly six months in which Ramallah publicly severed all ties between the two parties over Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. The PA president cannot travel without approval by Israeli authorities.

While that annexation plan was shelved in August as part of the normalization accords with the United Arab Emirates, coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel did not resume until a week and a half ago.

The decision to restore ties came only a few days after the US presidential election was won by Democratic challenger Joe Biden, whom Ramallah anticipates will prove more sympathetic to its cause than Trump. The PA severed all ties with the Trump administration three years ago in protest of its policies.

On Friday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

“The entire Middle East is changing, and substantial regional processes are moving forward, including [Israel’s] normalization agreements with Arab nations, that are helping… develop the region’s economy and its stability,” he said.

His call to the Palestinians came after Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi met Thursday with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi at the Allenby Bridge Border Crossing.

The meeting was the first between the two, and the first time in years that the top diplomats of the two countries have had an official sit-down.

Benny Gantz (left) and Gabi Ashkenazi of the Blue and White party arrive to give a joint a statement in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

A statement released by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said Safadi and Ashkenazi discussed “a number of pending concerns, including water rights, lifting restrictions on Jordanian exports to the West Bank, Jordanian provision of additional electricity to the Palestinian Authority, and organizing movement through border crossings in light of their closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Safadi’s office also said he emphasized the need to restart bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in light of the PA’s recent decision to resume security coordination with Israel.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the meeting, but declined to provide further details.

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