Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met Thursday with President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi in Cairo to discuss Iran's efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon and the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.
Meeting at the president's Al-Ittihadiya Palace, Lapid presented Sissi with his "economy for security" plan for reconstructing the Strip, as well as a broader plan for strengthening the Palestinian Authority amid its economic difficulties.
Israel's Foreign Ministry praised the "warm" meeting, where the two also discussed deepening normalization agreements with Arab countries and Iran's broader influence in the region.
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The Presidential Palace stressed Egypt's efforts to secure peace "based on the two-state solution and the decisions of the international community," and to prevent further escalation between Palestinians and Israel.
Israel's Foreign Minister also met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and other senior Egyptian officials.
“Egypt is an especially important strategic partner for Israel,” Lapid said. “My goal is to strengthen our security, diplomatic, and economic relations with Egypt. It’s important to continue to work on the peace between our two nations.”
Lapid also returned over 95 Egyptian archeological artifacts that were illegally smuggled from Egypt into Israel, held by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
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It said the items included hieroglyphic inscriptions on stone, a fragment of a wooden sarcophagus, inscriptions on papyrus, figurines of Egyptian goddesses and other figures placed inside tombs as burial offerings. Israel released a photo of Lapid and Shokry in front of a table filled with the artifacts.
On Monday, the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper reported that Egyptian head of intelligence Abbas Kamel has delayed his trip to Israel that was planned for the end of December due to the lack of progress on the indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel regarding Israeli prisoners.
A diplomatic source in Hamas said on Monday that "there's a lot of frustration in Gaza," caused by the delays of the promised reconstruction of Gaza as well as ease of restrictions on Gazans.
Hamas said that "this foot-dragging cannot last forever," the source said.
In September, a day before Prime Minister Bennett's meeting with Sissi, Lapid presented his plan for reconstructing the Gaza Strip which he called "economy in exchange for security." The government has yet to officially adopt the initiative.
The plan's principles are not new. The first stage calls for immediate humanitarian rehabilitation of the strip. If Hamas maintains a long-term peace at this stage, Israel will allow the reconstruction of the strip's infrastructure.
The second stage calls for promoting a significant economic program in the strip which will include the establishment of an artificial island off Gazan shores on which a port could potentially be built. Additionally, international investment will be promoted, as will joint economic initiatives for Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
According to diplomatic sources, during their meeting in September, Bennett and Sissi discussed Iran, Gaza, Israeli prisoners held by Hamas, international terrorism, and trade and tourism between Israel and Egypt.
Reuters contributed to this report.