Sissi Throws Weight Behind French Effort for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, Offers to Help

Current animosity between Palestinians and Israelis is no worse than that between Egyptians and Israelis before 1979 peace deal, says Egyptian president.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi delivers his speech at the lower house of parliament in Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016.
Koji Sasahara/ AP

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Tuesday declared his support for the French proposal to hold a Mideast peace conference later this year and said he was prepared to "make every effort" to contribute to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

Sissi called on Israel and the Palestinians to seize what he described as a "realistic" and "great" opportunity to reach a peaceful settlement to their decades-old conflict.

The Egyptian president said that Israelis and Palestinians need look no further than the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty to see the positive outcome of peacemaking.

The amount of animosity between Egypt and Israel that had existed prior to the conclusion of the landmark accord was no different from how the Palestinians and Israelis feel today, Sissi said.

The remarks were Sissi's most detailed public comments on the issue since taking office nearly two years ago.

Addressing Israelis and their government, Sissi said there was a "real opportunity" for peacemaking, although some in Israel did not think peace is now necessary given the turmoil in the region.

An Israeli-Palestinian deal, he said, would "give safety and stability to both sides. If this is achieved, we will enter a new phase that perhaps no one can imagine now."

"I want to say to all those listening, Palestinians and Israelis: Please, there is now a great opportunity for a better future and life and greater hope and stability," he said. "Should not we seize the chance and move in that framework?"

France's president said Tuesday that a preliminary meeting of foreign ministers ahead of the conference is being delayed to allow U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to attend. Paris plans to host a ministerial meeting of 20 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as a first step to discussing the peace process.

Israel and the Palestinians have not been invited to the French-sponsored foreign ministers meeting.