Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, the first such visit in nearly a decade.
Speaking at a news conference on Sunday alongside Netanyahu, Shoukry called for renewed peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials, and warned of the “constant deterioration” of the situation on the ground since the last round of negotiations between the two sides collapsed in April 2014.
“My visit to Israel today is a continuation of Egypt’s long-standing sense of responsibility towards peace for itself and all the peoples of the region, particularly the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, who have suffered many decades due to the perpetuation of the conflict between them,” Shoukry, the first Egyptian official to visit Israel since 2007, said.
“The plight of the Palestinian people becomes more arduous every day,” he added. “The dream of peace and security moves further out of the Israeli people’s reach as long as the conflict continues.”
At the press conference, Netanyahu called on Palestinians “to follow the courageous example of Egypt and Jordan and join us for direct negotiations”.
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel.
Palestinian leaders say years of direct talks with Israel have not ended the nearly 50-year occupation of Palestinian territories, and they have instead chosen to pursue international diplomacy to reach a deal.
On June 29, Shoukry met Palestinian leaders during a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah.
In 1979, Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel after years of conflict.
However, relations cooled over Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, and were further soured after the June 2012 election of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi as Egyptian president.
After President Mubarak’s was deposed in the 2011 Egyptian revolution, protesters stormed Israel’s embassy in that September.
Morsi was, himself deposed in July 2013 by then-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who was elected Egypt’s president in 2014.
Sisi recently made a high-profile speech calling for a resumption of efforts to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Netanyahu said that he welcomed Sisi’s “recent offer of Egyptian leadership and efforts to advance peace with the Palestinians and a broader peace in our region”.
In April 2016, Israel’s deputy chief of staff spoke of an “unprecedented level of cooperation” with Egypt, mainly regarding intelligence-sharing. The two countries share intelligence in a common fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) operating in Egypt’s Sinai desert.
Peace efforts have made no head way since Netanyahu took office in 2009.
Palestinians are seeking the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as the capital – territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.