Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

Egypt cautiously welcomes Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan

Cairo said the American plan should be viewed within the context of the search for a settlement to the conflict

US President Donald Trump  with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in the Oval Office in April. Mr Trump has offered to intervene to break the deadlock with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam. Evan Vucci / AP
US President Donald Trump  with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in the Oval Office in April. Mr Trump has offered to intervene to break the deadlock with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam. Evan Vucci / AP

Egypt, the first Arab nation to make peace with Israel, has given a cautious welcome to US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan, calling on Israel and the Palestinians to resume negotiations under Washington’s auspices.

The plan, popularly known as the “deal of the century” was formally unveiled in Washington on Tuesday by President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the works for at least three years, the plan embraces Israel’s take on key contentious issues that have derailed past peace efforts, including borders and the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

It attaches tough conditions for granting the Palestinians their hoped-for state. The plan was dubbed by Mr Netanyahu as a “historic breakthrough” that is equal in significance to his country’s declaration of independence in 1948. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to resist it, calling it “nonsense.”

“Egypt appreciates the continuing efforts by the United States to reach a comprehensive and just peace that contributes to the stability and security in the Middle East and ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday night. It added that the American plan should be viewed within the context of the search for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

“Hence, Egypt calls on the two relevant sides to carefully study the American vision for realising peace, grasp all its aspects and open channels of dialogue to resume talks under US sponsorship.”

The Cairo-headquartered Arab League, however, took a less welcoming approach to the peace plan, with its chief Ahmed Abul Gheit saying on Wednesday that a permanent and just peace between the Palestinians and Israel must hinge on the “will of the two parties, not one without the other.”

He said the Pan-Arab organisation was carefully studying the plan, but that “initial reading suggests the dismissal of legitimate Palestinian rights to their lands and the unsuitability of many of the proposed compromise ideas.”

Egypt has been closely involved in the Palestinian issue since 1948. It has fought Israel in three wars since then, the last of which was in 1973. The two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979 but that historic pact did not inject much warmth into the two countries’ relations.

However, the two have forged close relations in recent years, particularly in their joint effort to combat Islamic militancy in Sinai, a peninsula located between mainland Egypt and Israel. They have also worked together to defuse tension or broker a ceasefire between Israel and the militant Hamas group in Gaza.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has been regularly briefed by US officials on the progress of their talks with Palestinian, Israeli and Arab officials as they shuttled in the region to shape up the plan. Mr El Sisi, a close ally of Mr Trump, has said Egypt would never accept any settlement that does not meet with the approval of the Palestinians.

Updated: January 29, 2020 04:20 PM

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