Egyptian foreign minister visits Israel in push for peace with Palestinians

JERUSALEM, July 10 (UPI) — Egypt’s foreign minister made his first visit to Israel in nine years in a bid to revive peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Sameh Shoukry arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday and was met by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Before a private meeting, they both made statements.

“My visit to Israel comes today at a crucial and challenging juncture for the Middle East,” Shoukry said in English.

Shoukry said the threat of terrorism is growing and “no person, group or people are exempt.”

Shoukry’s specific directive from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is to “provide all forms of support” toward reaching the goal of a two-state solution.” In May, Sisi called for a comprehensive agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

He said that 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 the 1967 border, with east Jerusalem of its capital; as well as the aspirations of Israelis to live in peace in security and stability.”

He noted the breakdown of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in April 2014 has led to a breakdown of humanitarian, economic and security matters in the area.

“The plight of the Palestinian people becomes more arduous every day, and the dream of peace and security moves further out of the Israeli people’s reach as long as the conflict continues. It is no longer acceptable to claim that the status quo is the most that can be achieved for the hopes and aspiration of the Palestinian and Israeli people,” he stated.

Netanyahu, who serves as Israeli’s foreign minister, said the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty 37 years ago and then the Jordanian-Israeli accord have led to stability in the region and “are critical assets for our countries.”

He again called on the Palestinians to directly negotiate.

“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,” he said. The two men are expected to meet for a second time later in the evening, apparently to allow each side to think over the various ideas raised in the first meeting, and to consult with others.

Israel’s relations with Egypt have cooled after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and the 2012 election of Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the ouster of Morsi by the military in 2013 have led to improved coordination and cooperation.

Two weeks ago Shoukry met with Palestinian President Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

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