AMMONNEWS - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday welcomed Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to Jerusalem in the first such visit by and Egyptian FM in nearly a decade.
At a press conference prior to retiring to the Prime Minister's office for their meeting, Netanyahu hailed the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Jordan as a "cornerstone of stability for the region."
Shoukry and Netanyahu are to hold "lengthy talks" focusing on reviving the peace process with the Palestinians, according to a statement from the Egyptian foreign ministry.
"I welcome President el-Sisi’s recent offer of Egyptian leadership in efforts to advance peace with the Palestinians and a broader peace in our region.," said Netanyahu. "We want the vision of two-state solution become a reality."
"Today I call again on the Palestinians to follow the greatest example of Egypt and Jorden and join us for direct negotiations. 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," Netanyahu continued.
Shoukry met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss Egypt's role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Shoukry and Abbas discussed Egypt's role in brokering a two-state solution to the conflict, with the aim of establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
"Achieving the vision of the two-state solution requires steps for building confidence, as well as a genuine will that does not waver away under any circumstances," Shoukry said at Sunday's press conference.
"Egypt is committed to supporting Israeli-Palestinian peace and is willing to provide all possible forms of assistance," he continued.
Noting that the peace process has reached a critical point, Shoukry said that "my visit comes in the context of President's Sissi's vision for establishing a just and comprehensive peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples – bringing this long conflict to an end."
The goal we aim to achieve through negotiations between the two parties is one that is based on justice, legitimate rights and mutual willingness to coexist peacefully in two neighboring independent states in peace and security," he said. "This will have a far-reaching and dramatic positive impact on the conditions in the entire middle east. Egypt is ready to contribute to achieve this goal."
"Ever since the cessation of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014 the situation on the ground has been in constant deterioration on the humanitarian, economic and security levels. 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 continue the status quo," he added.
The previous visit by an Egyptian Foreign Minister to Israel was in 2007, almost a decade ago.
The visit comes as Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi attempts to take a more active role in mediating between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to Israel's Channel 2, officials on both the Israeli and Egyptian sides are working to plan a summit with Netanyahu and Sisi before year's end in either Cairo or Sharm -el-Sheikh to organize a regional peace effort. Netanyahu and Sisi last met in 2014 after Sisi took power.
"Today's visit is important from many points-of-view," Netanyahu said ahead of the meeting. "It teaches about the change that has come over Israel-Egypt relations, including President El-Sisi's important call to advance the peace process with both the Palestinians and Arab countries."
During the meeting, Shoukry is expected to urge Netanyahu to accept a French initiative on Middle East peace to resume stalled negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and hold an international peace conference by year's end.
In June, the international community convened for a peace summit in Paris and committed to try and push Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks.
Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives were invited to the talks in the French capital which are aimed at laying the ground for a fully-fledged peace conference to be held by the end of the year.
The Palestinians hailed the Paris meeting as a "very significant step" towards peace which sent a clear message to Israel about its ongoing occupation of lands they want for a future state.
Israel on the other hand called the meeting a missed opportunity and said that the initiative would go down in history as having "distanced the chances of peace".