Egypt foreign minister heads to Israel for rare meeting with Netanyahu

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry was heading to Israel on Sunday for a rare visit in which he is to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his office said.

Shoukry would hold “lengthy talks” with Netanyahu focusing on reviving the peace process with the Palestinian Authority, the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The previous visit by an Egyptian Foreign Minister to Israel was in 2007, almost a decade ago.

The visit comes as Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi attempts to take a more active role in mediating between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Two additional topics of discussion will be the returning of debris from EgyptAir Flight 804, which crashed into the Mediterranean last May, to Egypt, as well as any security issues the two countries share.

“Today’s visit is important from many points-of-view,” Netanyahu said ahead of the meeting. “It teaches about the change that has come over Israel-Egypt relations, including President El-Sisi’s important call to advance the peace process with both the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries.”

During the meeting, Shoukry is expected to urge Netanyahu to accept a French initiative on Middle East peace to resume stalled negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority and hold an international peace conference by year’s end.

Some two weeks ago, Shoukry made a rare visit to Ramallah to meet with Abbas and discuss Egypt’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Shoukry and Abbas discussed Egypt’s role in brokering a two-state solution, with the aim of establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In June, the international community convened for a peace summit in Paris and committed to try and push Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume peace talks.

Neither Israeli nor the Palestinian Authority representatives were invited to the talks in the French capital which are aimed at laying the ground for a fully-fledged peace conference to be held by the end of the year.

The Palestinian Authority hailed the Paris meeting as a “very significant step” towards peace which sent a clear message to Israel about its ongoing occupation of lands they want for a future state.

Israel on the other hand called the meeting a missed opportunity and said that the initiative would go down in history as having “distanced the chances of peace”.

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