U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on Wednesday to hold talks with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and other Egyptian officials on Libya and to explore a proposal by the Egyptian leader to try to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Kerry landed in Cairo a day after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Sisi offered support for a French initiative to revive the peace process and pave the way toward a lasting peace accord with the Israelis saying he was willing to serve as a mediator, a U.S. official said.
His visit also follows a series of international meetings in Vienna on ways to end conflicts in Libya and Syria.
U.S. officials traveling with Kerry said he spoke by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday and wanted hear more from Sisi about his plans.
Egypt was the first of a handful of Arab countries to recognize Israel with a U.S.-sponsored peace accord in 1979, but Egyptian attitudes toward their neighbors remain chilly. Sisi said Tuesday that Egypt’s relations with Israel can only be “warmer” if the Jewish state reached a settlement with the Palestinians. He pledged that Egypt would “make every effort” toward a solution.
Sisi’s proposal, made during an impromptu speech at an economic conference, comes as France is pushing to organize an international conference to launch peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
Addressing Israelis and their government, Sisi 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.
In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Sisi’s “willingness to invest every effort to advance a future of peace and security between us and the Palestinians” and said Israel was ready to join Egypt and other Arab states in “advancing the peace process and stability in the region.”
Netanyahu, however, told France’s foreign minister on Sunday that Israel remained opposed to the French initiative, born of French frustration over the absence of movement toward a two-state solution since U.S.-brokered talks collapsed in 2014
Kerry will elaborate on details of a meeting in Vienna on Monday in which world powers said they were ready to consider demands from Libya’s new unity government for exemptions from a U.N. arms embargo to help take control of the lawless country.
The West is counting on the UN-backed unity government to tackle ISIS in Libya and stop new flows of migrants heading across the Mediterranean.