The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany have been pushing to bring Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his Palestinian Authority counterpart, Riad Maliki, together for talks in the coming weeks.
The four foreign ministers, known as the Munich Group, are expected to convene in Paris next month and have invited Ashkenazi and Maliki to join them.
They expect Ashkenazi to go to France in March, a diplomat from a Munich Group country said, adding that he is not running in the upcoming election and does not have any political reason not to.
Israeli diplomatic sources were more circumspect about whether Ashkenazi would participate.
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 Jerusalem about a lack of balance.
This is the second such invitation from the Munich Group in 2021, the first being to join a meeting in Cairo in January. Ashkenazi did not participate, but he spoke to all four foreign ministers separately before and after the meeting.
The “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, an Israeli diplomatic 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.
The Munich Group’s statement following its meeting last month highlighted the US role in relaunching the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
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.