Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo on Tuesday ahead of an emergency Arab League ministerial meeting on Wednesday, called for by the Palestinians to discuss the faltering negotiation process with the Israelis.
The foreign minister expressed to Abbas Egypt’s continued support for the “Palestinian leadership” with the aim of “reaching a peaceful settlement based on international principles and resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative”, according to a Wednesday foreign ministry statement.
Abbas and Fahmy discussed the ongoing final status negotiations and the “obstacles” involved in the process, in light of the fast approaching 29 April deadline as per the nine-month time frame agreed for the United States sponsored talks in 2013. The ministry statement highlighted “the failure of Israel to release the fourth instalment of [Palestinian] prisoners as pledged at the beginning of the negotiations”.
Fahmy also reiterated Egypt’s commitment to facilitating reconciliation amongst the Palestinians. The two factions, Hamas, the ruling power in the Gaza strip, and Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank, have been in a state of conflict since the former’s 2006 legislative victory. The period following the elections saw factional fighting between the two Palestinian political groups and they are yet to fully reconcile their differences, an issue that the Egyptian foreign ministry has cited as one of the barriers hindering peace talks with Israel.
Hamas said in March that reconciliation with Fatah would not happen without Egyptian sponsorship. In response a Fatah official said that Hamas has no right to dictate terms of reconciliation.
Abbas announced in April that he intends to begin the process to sign international treaties and United Nations conventions. This angered the Israeli side and US Secretary of State John Kerry cancelled a scheduled meeting with Abbas.
In a US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on Tuesday Kerry criticised the continued Israeli settlement activity, saying it only serves to derail the talks. Last week in Rabat, he said: “Both sides have taken steps that are not helpful, and that is evident to everybody.”
US Senator John McCain urged Kerry on Tuesday to accept that the talks had failed.
Kerry has been working to keep the talks alive despite the obstacles that continue to arise, making several trips to the region over the last nine months to keep the talks alive despite negative statements from both sides, including the Palestinian’s chief negotiator saying the talks had failed in December 2013.
On Wednesday AFP reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered Israeli ministers to limit contact with their Palestinian counterparts, adding to the negative atmosphere surrounding the talks.
The Arab League refused to recognise Israel as Jewish state during its 25th summit, expressing its support for the Palestinian side in negotiations and stressing the importance of a settlement on the June 1967 borders.