Egypt hosts Israeli Foreign Minister in diplomatic drive to secure permanent Gaza peace

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi travels to Cairo: the first such visit by an Israeli diplomat in 13 years.

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Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi took part in talks in Cairo on Sunday for the first time in the past 13 years, amid a high-level diplomatic push to bring permanent peace to Gaza.

Foreign Minister Ashkenazi met Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry as part of Egypt’s efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and “build on the ceasefire in Gaza,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said. At the same time, Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Netanyahu said they discussed regional security issues and how to prevent Hamas from siphoning off civilian aid to Gaza.

Kamel also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and handed him a message of support to Palestinians from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The flurry of diplomatic activities follow an Egypt-brokered ceasefire on May 21 that ended an 11-day onslaught on Gaza that killed 248 Palestinians, 66 of which are children.

In Cairo, Shoukry told Ashkenazi there was a “need to take into account the special sensitivity associated with East Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and all Islamic and Christian holy sites”. Attacks by Israeli security forces on worshippers in the mosque during Ramadan helped trigger the Gaza conflict.

Egypt restated its call for the creation of an appropriate atmosphere to revive talks between Israelis and Palestinians with the aim of reaching a two-state solution. Among the terms of the Egyptian initiative for a long-term truce was the immediate improvement of the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza.

The initiative also stipulates a plan for the reconstruction of Gaza, and a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel.

Ashkenazi called on the Egyptian side to work toward reaching a permanent ceasefire with Hamas, with a focus on the need to reach an agreement that obliged Hamas to return Israeli soldiers and citizens held prisoner since 2014.

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