Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian ministers meet in Cairo to discuss peace in the Middle East

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The Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Jordan met with a senior Palestinian Authority official to revive the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that Jordanian, Egyptian and Palestinian intelligence chiefs also took part in the talks that took place in Cairo on Monday.

It said their discussion touched on efforts to strengthen the ceasefire that Cairo negotiated in May to end an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, as well as reconstruction plans for Gaza.

At the meeting, “a number of proposals were considered to overcome the deadlock in the peace process,” said the Foreign Ministry.

Possibilities of identifying a “political space” in which peace can be brought about between Israelis and Palestinians based on a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state were also discussed.

The talks were attended by, among others, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, the Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Hussein Al-Sheikh, Head of the General Authority for Civil Affairs of the Palestinian Authority.

Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians failed in 2014.

The meeting on Monday follows a visit by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Cairo earlier this month.

He and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi discussed a long-awaited prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that has ruled Gaza since 2007.

In September, Mr El Sisi met with Jordanian King Abdulla and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo to discuss ways to resume peace talks with Israel.

That same month, Mr El Sisi held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea.

Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, brokered the planned exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hamas. The conclusion of the agreement would, according to Egyptian security officials, be a key component of a broader agreement in order to create a climate conducive to the resumption of the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations for a final settlement of their conflict.

The broader deal, officials said, includes significant investments to improve the economy of Gaza and its estimated 2.1 million people, the exploitation of natural gas reserves off the Mediterranean coast of the Gaza Strip, and the transfer of Jordan to a greater and more authoritative role as the traditional guardian of the Muslims Holy shrines in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Another way the Egyptians have worked is to bridge the gap between Hamas and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority of Mr Abbas. This schism dates back to 2007, when militant Hamas fighters forcibly took power in Gaza and severed ties with Ramallah.

Cairo is also working to convince Palestinian factions to hold presidential and parliamentary elections with a long delay so that the winners have a valid popular mandate to negotiate a final settlement with Israel, officials said.

According to Israeli media reports, Hamas is holding two Israeli civilians – Avner Mengistu and Hisham Al Sayed. It also contains the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in the 2014 war.

Hamas wants Israel to release more than 1,100 prisoners in return. Israel, Egyptian security officials say, wants to release Palestinian prisoners in batches, starting with older inmates, women and minors.

Hamas leaders indirectly negotiated the deal with Israel, with officials from Egypt’s General Directorate for Intelligence, the country’s top intelligence agency, acting as mediators.

Egyptian intelligence agents have traditionally taken the lead in dealing with Israel and the Palestinians. Israel does not negotiate directly with Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist group.

Egypt traditionally plays a mediating role alongside the USA in the Arab-Israeli conflict. His role was made possible and credible by his own US-backed peace treaty with Israel.

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Updated: December 27, 2021, 5:09 pm


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