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Monday, 31 May 2021

Another shot at peace

A day of high stakes diplomacy: High-level talks aimed at forging a lasting truce between Israel and Hamas took place between Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian diplomats in Cairo, Tel Aviv and Ramallah yesterday as Egypt stepped up efforts to bring the two sides to the negotiating table following the 11-day conflict in Gaza earlier this month. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi travelled to Cairo — the first official visit to Egypt by an Israeli foreign minister since 2008 — for talks with FM Sameh Shoukry, while Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel was in Tel Aviv and Ramallah, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss ways to restart direct peace talks.

The Egyptian and Israeli foreign ministers agreed to continue coordination to bring about a permanent truce between Israel and Hamas, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that offered no additional details. During the meeting Shoukry emphasized the need to establish a positive climate for relaunching “serious and constructive” negotiations between Israel and Hamas, who were also urged to refrain from “any measures” that could hamper efforts to revive peace talks, according to the statement.

Egypt has been leading the drive to convert a ceasefire into a longer-term agreement, which includes the reconstruction of Gaza, a resumption of Palestine-Israel peace talks, and a prisoner swap, since renewed conflict erupted between Israel and Hamas earlier this month.

A new round of Palestinian reconciliation talks may take place in Cairo in the coming weeks, after Abbas agreed with Kamel to hold a series of meetings with other Palestinian factions to “unify the Palestinian position,” according to Ahram Gate. Talks between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo earlier this year looked to have produced the first Palestinian elections in 15 years, before factional bickering and Israeli intransigence lead to Abbas cancelling the May and July polls

What about this three-way summit? Reports in Israeli press last week suggested that a three-way summit between the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Israel could soon go ahead.

Tel Aviv will only take part if reconstruction and peace talks take place separately, and if progress is made on the return of the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in a 2014 clash with Hamas and two citizens it thinks Hamas is holding captive, according to Israeli media. Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh is reportedly due in Cairo to discuss the plans.

The issue of the prisoner swap was raised by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu during his meeting with Kamel yesterday, according to a statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The two also discussed “mechanisms” to prevent Hamas bolstering its military capabilities and its use of reconstruction materials destined for Gaza.

The meetings are dominating the conversation on Egypt in the foreign press: AP | Reuters | Xinhua | Times of Israel.

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