JERUSALEM (JTA) — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi offered his support for the French peace initiative, saying that Egypt is prepared to “make every effort” to contribute to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.
The announcement on Tuesday came hours after French President Francois Hollande said a summit of representatives of 20 countries that had been scheduled for May 30 would be postponed because U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cannot attend. May 30 is Memorial Day in the United States.
Neither Israel nor the Palestinians were invited to the summit. Israel opposes the summit and the process, and has called instead for direct talks with the Palestinians.
Labeling the French initiative a “real opportunity,” Sissi called on the sides to “please, reach an agreement so a solution can be found.”
A peace deal would “give safety and stability to both sides. If this is achieved, we will enter a new phase that perhaps no one can imagine now,” Sissi said.
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel, in 1979.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Sissi, saying in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, “I welcome Egyptian President El-Sissi’s remarks and his willingness to make every effort to advance a future of peace and security between us and the Palestinians and the peoples of the region. Israel is ready to participate with Egypt and other Arab states in advancing both the diplomatic process and stability in the region. I appreciate President El-Sissi’s work and also draw encouragement from his leadership on this important issue.”
Netanyahu has called on France, which is convening and hosting the summit, to cancel the meeting, saying it gives the Palestinians an excuse to avoid face-to-face negotiations. Netanyahu has called for direct, bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The summit is set to be the run-up to an international peace conference to be held in the French capital this summer that would include Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Also Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the failure to reach a peace agreement “will bring the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front to Israel and the West Bank,” Haaretz reported. Abbas made the remarks during a meeting in Ramallah with representatives of the left-wing Israeli political party Meretz.