Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will arrive in Israel on Sunday afternoon for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader confirmed Sunday. This is the first visit in Israel by an Egyptian foreign minister in nine years.
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Netanyahu said he would meet with Shoukry twice on Sunday, once in the afternoon and again in the evening. Netanyahu's special envoy Isaac Molho is responsible with coordinating Shoukry's visit, the premier said.
"The visit today is important in many ways," Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting. "It shows the change in relations between Israel and Egypt, including Sissi's important call to advance the peace process [both] with the Palestinians and with Arab states.
Two weeks ago Shoukry met Palestinian President Abbas in Ramallah.
Shoukry is visiting Jerusalem on behalf of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, who two months ago called on Israeli political parties to unite around advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace. Sissi also called on Arab states to back such an effort.
Diplomatic sources in Egypt told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an that advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts will be at the top of the agenda at the meeting. The report said Shoukry is coming bearing Egyptian proposals on ways to restart the stalled peace process and stress the need to promote the French peace initiative as well as Sissi's regional peace push.
Egypt's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement that Shoukry's visit comes in the context of Sissi's remarks in which he called for Israel and the Palestinians to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. During his visit, Shoukry will discuss Israeli-Palestinian confidence-building measures that would lead to the renewal of direct peace negotiations between the sides, the statement said.
Sissi's remarks were part of a move led by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who serves as a personal advisor to Sissi. Blair tried to get both Netanyahu and Opposition leader Isaac Herzog behind a regional diplomatic initiative that would also entail the forming of a national unity government in Israel, which would include Herzog's Zionist Union.
The move failed to pan out after Netanyahu decided to turn down Zionist Union's demands concerning the peace process with the Palestinians during coalition negotiations. Instead, Netanyahu opted for the inclusion of Yisrael Beiteinu in the governing coalition and the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister.
Since the coalition was expanded, Netanyahu has several times said he was interested in advancing a regional diplomatic initiative. Netanyahu also brought this up in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome two weeks ago.
Netanyahu has also made it clear to Egypt, through diplomatic channels, that bringing Lieberman into the government did not lessen his commitment to Sissi's initiative and his desire to promote the move.