Egyptian President Abdel al-Fattah al-Sissi told a group of American Jewish leaders and activists in Washington on Wednesday that he supports the idea of a regional peace summit on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but only if it leads to real progress.
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Sissi, speaking in an off-the-record meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel in the capital, said a peace agreement could have positive ramifications across the entire Middle East and it could help to solve many of the region's other problems.
The meeting's existence was first reported on by Jacob Kornbluh of Jewish Insider.
More than 50 people attended the discussion, including researchers from leading think tanks such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Brookings Institution as well as leaders of Jewish organizations such as the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, J Street and the American Jewish Committee. The meeting was in fact one of the first large-scale leadership gatherings of the organized Jewish community since the November election.
Sissi told the group that Egypt was committed to helping the Trump administration advance its push for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. People who attended the event said that a third of his opening remarks, and half of the questions he took from the crowd, were about the conflict.
Sissi expressed a general sense of optimism in the Arab world, in light of President Donald Trump's early policy steps in the Middle East. Sissi spoke at length about the importance of global and regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism and singled out the Gaza Strip as a particular hot spot for terrorism. He also said, however, that the territory was an important component in any attempt to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Sissi met with Trump in the White House on Monday, a meeting that both sides later described as very successful. It was the Egyptian president's first-ever visit to the White House. Sissi had a strained relationship with the Obama administration, but has so far received mostly praise and expressions of support from the Trump administration. Trump emphasized in their meeting that America fully respected Sissi's mandate as Egypt's president and was committed to helping his country make economic progress.
During a short photo opportunity with Trump, Sissi said that he and the president discussed "the century-long issue," a phrase that Egyptian media outlets interpreted as a reference to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The White House also stated later that this was one of the topics that the two leaders discussed. Sissi, like Jordan's King Abdullah II, who met with Trump on Wednesday, has expressed strong support over the years for the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002