Leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Palestinians meet in Cairo

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s president held talks in Cairo on Thursday with the King of Jordan and the president of the Palestinian Authority aimed at reviving the Middle East peace process and strengthening a ceasefire that halted the Israel-Hamas war.

Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, King Abdullah II of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas discussed the elusive two-state solution to the conflict with Israel, according to a statement from el-Sissi’s office. The three leaders said the Palestinians have a right to an independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel staunchly opposes such a plan.

“We very much welcome the meeting of these three leaders,“ U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. “We hope it will lead to a positive outcome and a regain of traction of diplomacy in the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.”

Relations remain tense, even though Israel’s new coalition government, which includes an Arab party for the first time, has sought to keep things calm after the deadly war in May. Hamas responded to weeks of tensions in east Jerusalem by firing rockets, which triggered a withering Israeli assault on Gaza.

At least 260 Palestinians were killed during the conflict, including 67 children and 39 women, according to the Gaza health ministry. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 militants. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.

Egypt, which has played a key mediation role between Israel and Hamas over the years, mediated a truce. In recent weeks, stakeholders have stepped up their diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing another military outburst in the region. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Neftali Bennett has recently said that he will be visiting Egypt “soon” to hold talks with el-Sissi.

Last week after Bennett met with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Abbas in Ramallah. Those talks signaled a possible shift after the near-complete breakdown in communication between Abbas and Israeli leaders in recent years.

The meeting was followed by the Israeli announcement of a series of gestures aimed at strengthening the Palestinian Authority, including plans to loan $150 million to the cash-strapped autonomy government in the occupied West Bank.

Last month, Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel paid a rare visit to Israel to discuss conditions for a long-lasting cease-fire deal between Israel and the Hamas. Kamel had also travelled to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Abbas, whom the U.S. and Israel would like to bolster in his rivalry with Hamas.

In Thursday’s talks, the Egyptian and Jordanian leaders also renewed their support of Abbas warning against the “dangerous repercussions” of the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the demolition of Palestinian houses and the confiscation of land properties, read the statement. On his part, el-Sissi stressed that the establishment of a Palestinian state requires the unification of all Palestinian factions, added the statement.

The Islamic militant group has controlled Gaza since ousting Abbas’ forces in 2007, a year after it defeated his Fatah party in Palestinian parliamentary elections.

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