Egypt FM heads to Paris for Middle East peace conference

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Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry flew to France on Saturday to attend an international conference in Paris on Sunday that aims to revive peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli authorities.

Shoukry is set to chair the Egyptian delegation at the conference, which has been organised by France, according to a statement by foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid.

The peace conference, which will be chaired by President Francois Hollande, will be attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as dozens of countries and organisations.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the conference – where an international framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinians may be endorsed – claiming it will be “rigged” against Israel.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority, which has welcomed the conference and described a “one last chance to achieve peace,”  does not plan on sending representatives.

Egyptian FM Shoukry is expected to give a speech during the conference to “outline Egypt’s vision on reaching a just and comprehensive settlement for the Palestinian cause, which is considered the cornerstone of stability and peaceful coexistence in the region.”

Abu Zeid added that Shoukry will stress the importance of ensuring that the Palestinian people receive their legitimate rights, primarily the establishment of their independent state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

He will also stress Egypt’s readiness to contribute to achieving this objective through encouraging both the Palestinian and Israeli sides to resume direct talks.

Shoukry will also sit for bilateral meetings with his European and Arab counterparts on the sidelines of the conference.

In December, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he hopes the conference will set a timetable and mechanisms to end the building of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.

Sunday’s conference comes a few weeks after the UN Security Council’s adoption of a resolution deeming the building of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 as having “no legal validity.”

On 23 December, the 15-member council adopted the resolution by a vote of 14 in favour with one abstention by the United States.

The resolution was sponsored by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal after Egypt withdrew its own proposal a day earlier.

Abu Zeid said in Saturday’s statement that all “sincere and serious initiatives can provide a real opportunity for the Palestinian and Israeli sides to affirm their political will and put in place the foundations for confidence-building measures.”

He stressed on Egypt’s readiness to exert all efforts to ensure the success of every initiative that aims at reaching a lasting solution to the conflict.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has maintained that peace, prosperity and cooperation will only be possible if both parties are able to reach a two-state solution.

In July, FM Shoukry visited Israel – a first for an Egyptian foreign minister since 2007 – where he stressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Egypt supports the two-state solution.

Source: Ahram Online

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