No Alternative to Egyptian Initiative on Gaza; Says Al-Sisi

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President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said on Saturday Egypt’s initiative for a truce between Palestinian factions and Israel in the Gaza Strip is a “real chance to find a solution” to the conflict.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Al-Sisi said there is “no alternative” to the Egyptian proposal, a sentiment shared by the Italian who stressed his nation’s support for the plan.

Al-Sisi stressed that the initiative is “capable of opening doors” for longer lasting solutions to the situation in the Gaza Strip, home to 1.8 million Palestinians. The Strip has been under an Israeli enforced air, land and sea blockade which includes Egyptian control of the southern Rafah border crossing.

Hamas rejected the Egyptian proposal, which was announced on 14 July, saying that it was not officially approached to participate in the agreement. The group has also said it would not accept a ceasefire that does not include the lifting of the blockade.

A Palestinian delegation led by the Palestinian Authority, and includes five Hamas and two Islamic Jihad representatives, is expected in Cairo on Saturday following an invitation from Egypt to further efforts for a lasting ceasefire. The invitation was also extended to the Israeli side as part of a United Nations and United States sponsored a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire deal, which lasted less than three hours on Friday. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry had hoped to use the 72-hours to secure a lasting ceasefire. The Egyptian foreign ministry confirmed on Friday that the invite to Cairo is still valid for both sides despite the collapse of the ceasefire.

Following the collapse of the ceasefire, which manifested in the continuation of deadly clashes in the southern town of Rafah, Kerry strongly condemned Hamas for violating the ceasefire. Both Israel and Hamas has blamed the other for violating the agreement.

The Israel Defense Forces suspects that one of its soldiers, 23 year-old Hadar Goldin, was captured by Hamas, although the group denies the accusation. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Friday the accusation is an attempt by Israel to “mislead” and “justify backing away from the truce and cover up the brutal massacres, particularly in Rafah”.

Kerry demanded the release of the soldier and called on “those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message”. Turkey and Qatar both have ties with the group and the foreign ministers of the two countries have sought to use their influence over the group to reach an agreement. Much of Hamas’ leadership is being hosted in Doha.

Meantime, president Sisi said that Italy is Egypt’s first European trade partner. He noted that the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and Italy is something close to six billion dollars.

“Italy is Egypt’s second trade partner worldwide and the fifth in terms of investments in Egypt, said President Sisi.

He added that his talks with the Italian PM also touched on the situation in Libya, pointing out that the European community has moral, humanitarian, and security commitment toward Libya.

Egypt and Italy agree that violence by the fighting Libyan militias should stop, he said.

The talks also addressed the terrorism file and means to promote economic ties between Egypt, Italy and the EU, he said.

President Sisi said a long-term strategy has to be adopted to combat terrorism.

“A strategy to improve the religious discourse has also to be drawn up in addition to the media that has to cooperate in fighting terrorism and extremism,” he went on to say.

For his part, the visiting prime minister said Italy supports Egypt’s ceasefire initiative on Gaza, saying it was the only chance to end the crisis.

Egypt and Italy are Libya’s neighbors, he said, adding that Italy is exposed to the same danger threatening stability in the region as Egypt.

Terrorism can only be countered through cooperation with Egypt, its government and president, the Italian premier said.

Al-Sisi also touched on Egyptian domestic affairs, saying that before the end of this year, Egypt will have a parliament.

He also said that Egypt would regain its power and position in the region. He compared Egypt’s “very good” security situation to that of neighbouring Libya, and urged international efforts to address terrorism in the region.

Source: SIS, Ahram Online & Daily News Egypt