Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday that the latest developments in the Palestinian territories confirm the importance of working immediately to revive direct Palestinian-Israeli talks under an active role by the US to bring both sides back to the negotiating table.
Blinken's visit to Egypt comes as part of his first Middle East tour – which included Israel and the Palestinian Authority before Jordan – as the US top diplomat to consolidate calm in the region in the aftermath of the recent Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.
Last week, Egypt-brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza that ended 11 days of relentless Israeli bombardment and air strikes against the strip.
Direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel collapsed in 2014.
According to a statement by Egyptian presidency spokesman Bassam Rady, President El-Sisi affirmed to Blinken the importance of the strategic partnership between Egypt and the US and Washington's role in supporting security and stability in the Middle East.
Blinken was keen during his meeting with El-Sisi to convey US President Joe Biden’s greetings to his Egyptian counterpart.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, chief of the intelligence service Abbas Kamel, and US officials attended the meeting.
Last week, Egypt brokered a ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians that ended 11 days of Israeli airstrikes against the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli offensive killed more than 250 Palestinians, including 66 children, injured hundreds, and desttoyed hundreds of commercial and residential buildings.
The president stressed to the US Secretary of State Egypt’s keenness to cooperate closely with the United States to resume the peace talks.
El-Sisi also affirmed to Blinken Egypt’s unwavering stance in calling for reaching a fair and comprehensive solution that ensures the Palestinian people’s rights in accordance with international references.
El-Sisi and Blinken agreed on enhancing bilateral coordination and consultations to consolidate the ceasefire and launch the reconstruction process of the Gaza Strip based on the Egyptian initiative in this regard.
They also discussed the means of reviving the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, the presidency said.
Blinken hailed the Egyptian efforts that led the two sides to implement the ceasefire and also praised the efforts Egypt is exerting to consolidate this agreement.
El-Sisi also lauded the full support the US has provided to these Egyptian efforts.
The Egyptian President and Blinken discussed a number of issues of mutual concern, including Egypt and Sudan’s dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
El-Sisi highlighted the importance of the US role in particular to effectively help resolve the crisis.
Blinken reiterated the US commitment to exerting efforts to reach an agreement that preserves the water and development rights of all parties.
On Tuesday, the Ethiopian foreign ministry said that Addis Ababa is committed to implementing the second phase of the filling of the dam’s reservoir as planned during the rainy season, which starts in July, Al-Arabiya reported.
This comes despite continued objections from Egypt and Sudan, the two downstream countries, to unilateral decisions by Addis Ababa on the filling and operation of the GERD in the absence of a legally binding agreement between the three countries.
Egypt and Sudan have repeatedly warned that Ethiopia's decision to proceed with the second filling of the dam seriously threatens the water interests of the two downstream countries.
During his meeting with Blinken, El-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s adherence to its rights through reaching a binding, fair agreement that ensures Egypt’s water security through stating clear rules for the filling and operation of the dam.
El-Sisi affirmed that this agreement should achieve the mutual interests of all parties.
Blinken affirmed the US’ keenness to intensify coordination with Egypt on all Middle Eastern issues, in light of Egypt’s political significance in the region, the presidency said.
The top diplomat also hailed Egypt’s contribution to achieving the stability desired by the people of the region’s countries.
El-Sisi and Blinken discussed the situation in Libya, which is currently undergoing a transitional period and is set to hold elections in December.
They agreed on the need to support Libya during the current political stage, and affirmed the need to ensure the exit of mercenaries and armed foreign militias from the country.
These steps will contribute to achieving the aspiration of the Libyan people and preserving the unity and integrity of the Libyan territories and the state’s national institutions, they concurred.
These steps will also avert the spread of chaos and the conversion of the Libyan territories to areas of influence of foreign powers, they agreed.
El-Sisi highlighted the Egyptian-American strategic partnership, hailing the US’ pivotal role in backing security and stability in the Middle East.
The president also stressed Egypt’s aspiration to enhance coordination and consultation with the US on various political and security issues as well as the regional issues.
El-Sisi underscored the Egyptian government and people’s unwavering will to continue the relentless efforts counter the scourge of terrorism and undermine its dangers on the security and intellectual levels, the presidency said.
The president said the state is also keen to boost the principles of citizenship, including freedom of belief and co-existence.
El-Sisi also affirmed the need to continue coordination and cooperation with the US to support Egyptian counter-terrorism efforts.
Blinken hailed Egypt’s decisive efforts in the counter-terrorism field during the past period and underscored the burdens Egypt shoulders to fight terrorism.
The top diplomat affirmed the US administration’s support for the Egyptian efforts in this regard.
Blinken added that the US considers Egypt a central partner in confronting the challenge of cross-border terrorism.
El-Sisi and Blinken also discussed the Egypt-US bilateral relations, according to the presidency.
Blinken praised the huge developmental efforts Egypt currently exerts.
El-Sisi explained to Blinken the Egyptian state’s efforts to implement these development projects with the aim of achieving comprehensive development in all fields and improving the lives of citizens and the services provided by the state.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, US Ambassador to Cairo Jonathan Cohen and Barbara Leaf of the National Security Council also attended the meeting.