Ashkenazi, Palestinian FM were invited to launch talks in Cairo

Ashkenazi was unable to attend due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Israel's new Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
Israel's new Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany attempted to bring Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his Palestinian Authority counterpart, Riyad al-Maliki, together for talks this week, a senior Foreign Ministry source said Tuesday.
The foreign ministers, a forum known as the Munich Group, convened in Cairo on Monday. They had originally invited Ashkenazi and Maliki to take part together, but they did not move past the preliminary request.
The Munich Group “quickly realized it was not possible for either side and went on to plan B, to invite Ashkenazi to take part in the first day and [Maliki] on the second day,” the source said.
Ashkenazi did not attend, but he spoke to his counterparts from all four countries separately before and after the group’s meeting in Cairo.
The Cairo “meeting was important for maintaining regional security and stability,” Ashkenazi told the foreign ministers, adding that he could not come because of the coronavirus lockdown, the source said.
Ashkenazi declined to take advantage of possibilities suggested by Foreign Ministry staff for him to be able to return without quarantining, feeling it was inappropriate to travel when other Israelis cannot leave the country, the source said.
Aside from Ashkenazi’s stated reason to the foreign ministers, he likely avoided meeting with Maliki because Israel has traditionally sought US mediation for talks with the Palestinians. A forum that includes the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers would likely strongly favor the Palestinians and raise concerns in Israel about a lack of balance.
The Munich Group’s statement following its meeting on Monday highlighted the US role in relaunching the Israeli-Palestinian peace process ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.
The group called for “a negotiated two-state solution, ensuring an independent and viable Palestinian state based on June 4, 1967, lines and UN Security Council resolutions, living side by side a secure and recognized Israel.”
The ministers also said they would be willing to work with the US to facilitate restarting negotiations toward that aim.
The Israeli government supports US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which stipulates that Israel would extend its sovereignty to 30% of the West Bank and the Palestinians would get a demilitarized state in the rest of it.
Biden has been staunchly opposed to settlement activity through more than four decades of holding public office, a stance that could be a source of friction between the US and Israel in the coming years, as it has been with past administrations.