Israel’s Netanyahu meets Egypt’s Sisi in New York

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that he spoke to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose country has been trying to arrange a Gaza ceasefire, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Netanyahu’s talks with Sisi late on Wednesday focused on “regional developments”, the Israeli Prime Minister wrote on Twitter without elaborating.

Egypt has been working to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s dominant Hamas Islamist movement amid frequent violence along the Israel-Gaza border, where Palestinians have been holding weekly protests.

Netanyahu and Sisi met in public for the first time in 2017 and Israeli media reports last month said that they had held a secret summit in Egypt in May to discuss a truce in neighboring Gaza, which is under tight Israeli and Egyptian border restrictions.

Egypt was the first of a handful of Arab countries to recognize Israel under a 1979 peace treaty and the two countries maintain close co-ordination on security as well as energy ties.

On Thursday Israeli and Egyptian companies announced that they would buy into a pipeline that would enable a landmark $15 billion natural gas export deal to begin next year.

Netanyahu and Sisi convened for their previously announced talks several hours after U.S. President Donald Trump said he wanted a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in what had appeared to be the clearest expression yet of his administration’s support for such an outcome.

But later on Wednesday Trump told a news conference that he would be open to a one-state solution if that was the preference of the parties themselves, a position he had previously stated.

Netanyahu, a right-wing politician who rarely utters publicly the words “Palestinian state” – a concept he conditionally endorsed in 2009 but which far-right coalition partners oppose – said he was not caught by surprise by Trump’s initial remarks.

In a statement, Netanyahu said he was confident that a promised U.S. peace plan would back Israel’s demand to maintain security control of the West Bank; territory it occupied in a 1967 war and which Palestinians seek as part of a future state.

Palestinians are boycotting Washington’s peace efforts after Trump broke with long-standing U.S. policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the American Embassy to the contested city.

Palestinian leaders say that a state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, must be based on the pre-1967 war borders and see any future Israeli military presence as a violation of sovereignty.

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