Egypt on Monday hosted the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Jordan to discuss ways to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a week before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
In a joint statement, the ministers called for practical steps to launch “credible negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians on achieving a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital in territory Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
The ministers said they were ready to work with the U.S. to facilitate negotiations that would lead to “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region.”
“There is a willingness to see a close relationship with the United States on the revival of the peace process that will have to be carried out at some point,” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a joint news conference following the meeting.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said the establishment of an independent Palestinian state should not threaten Israel’s security.
“The existence of an independent and contiguous Palestinian state alongside a secure state of Israel is the main guarantee for achieving stability in our region,” he said.
The Palestinians suffered numerous setbacks under the outgoing administration of President Donald Trump and have complained about what they say were pro-Israeli steps from Washington. They have said, however, that they are ready to work with the incoming Biden administration.
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Trump has sidelined the Palestinian Authority, recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. His administration also slashed financial assistance for the Palestinians and reversed course on the illegitimacy of Israeli settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Sissi met with the ministers earlier Monday, according to his office.
“A settlement to the Palestinian cause will change the reality and condition of the entire region for the better, by opening new paths and horizons for regional cooperation between governments and peoples,” Sissi said.
The Egyptian leader said the efforts by the four countries are aimed at breaking the deadlock in the Middle East peace process, “taking into account the political changes on the regional and international stages.” He was apparently referring to Biden’s election and the establishment of ties with Israel by four Arab countries — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
In the news conference, Le Drian urged Israel and the Palestinians to initiate and announce their commitment to a solution to the conflict and refrain from taking uniliteral measures.
“We continued this morning our efforts to define these commitments according to the ‘small steps approach’ that could first recreate the necessary climate of trust between the parties," he said.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeted that the ministers discussed “tangible confidence-building measures" that would be delivered to Israel and the Palestinians and other players.
"It remains our firm belief that a two-state-solution is the best basis for peace in the Middle East. We will continue to work to uphold this possibility - until Israel and Palestinians will return to direct negotiations," he tweeted.
There was no immediate comment from either Israel or the Palestinians.
In September, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an international conference early in 2021 to launch a “genuine peace process,” based on the UN resolutions and past agreements with Israel. The Palestinians no longer see the U.S. as an honest broker.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said last month that the Palestinian Authority was ready to cooperate with the incoming Biden administration, and urged Israel to return to talks based on a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For more than three decades, the Palestinians have sought an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but imposed a crippling blockade when the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized power from Abbas’ forces in 2007.
There have been no substantive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was first elected more than a decade ago, and the two sides are fiercely divided over the core issues of the conflict.