Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spontaneously issued a direct appeal to Israelis to make peace with the Palestinians during his Tuesday address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“Permit me to deviate from the written statement .. to address an appeal to the Israeli leadership and Israeli people,” Sisi said.
“We have a a real opportunity, to write a bright page in the history of our region to move toward peace,” Sisi said.
In the same way that Israel made peace with Egypt in 1978, it should now end its conflict with the Palestinians, Sisi said.
“The Egyptian experience is wonderful and unique and can be repeated by solving the problem of the Palestinians.” Sisi said.
“Establish a Palestinian state side-by-side the Israeli state” that preserves peace and security for both peoples, Sisi said.
It’s the second time this year that Sisi has spontaneously called on Israel to make peace during a public address.
In his prepared remarks, Sisi said that the “Arab Israeli conflict continues to be the core of regional instability in the Middle-East.”
Referring to Egypt as an "anchor for stability in the Middle East," Sisi said that Egypt is working to "end the occupation" and restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to reach a two-state solution.
"Egypt affirms that the hand of peace remains extended in the form the Arab Peace Initiative," Sisi said. He referenced a 2002 plan that offers Israel normalized relations with its neighbors in exchange for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, with minor swaps..
Constructive steps are need for peace, said Sisi who explained that these include; ending settlement building, halt acts that do “harm to the Arab heritage in Jerusalem” and begin negotiations.
The Egyptian leader was one of number of speakers who urged the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, during the first day of the opening session of the 71st General Assembly, which has drawn leaders from all over the world, including the Middle East.
US President Barack Obama who delivered his final foreign policy address to the General Assembly before he leaves office in January, did not offer or urge a new initiative.
He spoke, instead, of steps that both sides need to take. "Surely, Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land," he said.
In the past the US has been the major force in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It's last effort to broker a final status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians fell apart in April 2014.
In the absence of a publicly led US peace drive, Egypt, France and Russia have attempted to act as brokers for a new initiative. France in June held a ministerial meeting to launch an international process rather than relying on direct negotiations.
French President Francois Hollande told reporters at the UN General Assembly that he favored what ever plan worked, whether it was one that his country initiated or another one.
“We had a working group and that is going to continue during the General Assembly to ensure that we can have a conference in December that can present the conclusions that the Israeli and Palestinian stake holders can look at that. Because they need to negotiate with each other. Nobody can negotiate for them."
“Nobody can impose a solution upon them. Following the French initiative, other initiatives followed. They came up later, we said that is great. If it works more quickly than the French initiative, then we are not going to feel offended at all. If meetings take place between the President of the Palestinian authorities and the Prime Minster, Mr. Netanyahu, that too would be progress,” Hollande said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long called for direct talks with the Palestinians, who have refused to hold such negotiations until Israel halts all settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Netanyahu left Israel for New York on Tuesday, in advance of a scheduled meeting with Obama on Wednesday and his own address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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