Bennett, Egypt's Sissi Discuss Regional Diplomacy, Returning Israeli Captives in First Call

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Naftali Bennett at the Knesset
Naftali Bennett at the KnessetCredit: Maya Alleruzzo / AP

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke Monday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi for the first time since taking office, where they discussed renewing diplomacy between the two neighboring nations, and the return of Israeli captives in Gaza.

After Sissi congratulated the prime minister on his election, the two leaders discussed a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues.

They both voiced praise for the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, achieved under U.S. mediation efforts four decades ago, which has functioned as a cornerstone of stability in the Middle East.

Bennett acknowledged Egypt's role in ensuring stability, security and peace in the region, while also mediating on the Palestinian issue. Bennett emphasized Israel's ongoing efforts to come to an agreement on the repatriation of several longtime Israeli captives and bodies of Israeli soldiers.

Sissi highlighted the need for a ceasefire with the Gaza Strip, with the hope of improving the civil and humanitarian condition of Gazan residents, and noted the need to renew the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Sisi stressed the importance of supporting an Egyptian drive to help rebuild the Gaza Strip after last month's fighting between Israel and the Hamas Islamist group which controls it.

The two also discussed the importance of strengthening economic, commercial, and civil cooperation between the two countries. They agreed to meet in person  as soon as possible.   

The conversation between Bennett and Sissi is perceived in Israel as a significant event. Bennett still lacks diplomatic experience, and has been working in recent years to establish his skills in defense and security-related issues. The relationship with Egypt, and especially the development of personal ties with Sissi, could assist Israel in achieving regional stability.

Egypt has in recent years been trying to establish itself as a central player in mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas, exemplified in recent talks since Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Despite the "cold" peace and the difficulty in promoting mutual tourism projects, Egypt and Israel have maintained close ties over the years, namely in the fields of defense and intelligence.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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