Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry at the presidential palace in Cairo on May 18, 2016. Kerry arrived in Cairo to meet Sisi after Egypt called for a renewal of the Middle East peace process.
CAIRO – US Secretary of State John Kerry met in Cairo on Wednesday with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, after Egypt called for a renewal of the Middle East peace process.
Even before Sisi raised the issue, Kerry had planned a visit to discuss the Libya and Syria crises and to raise concerns about Egypt&39;s harsh crackdown on dissent, issues the top US diplomat&39;s office said were discussed in the meeting.
But Kerry was also keen to hear more from the Egyptian leader about how he intends to help broker peace between his Israeli and Palestinian neighbours.
"He&39;s interested in hearing a bit more directly from the president about what role he has in mind," a senior US official told reporters before the talks, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The secretary expressed his appreciation for the president&39;s recent statement of strong support for advancing Arab-Israeli peace," State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said afterwards, without providing details.
On Tuesday, in a televised speech, Sisi urged Israelis and Palestinians to seize what he said was a "real opportunity" and hailed his own country&39;s peace deal with Israel.
Sisi urged Israeli parties and leaders to "please, reach an agreement so a solution can be found" and called for "a real reconciliation, and quickly" between Palestinian factions, offering Cairo&39;s full support.
Arab League deputy secretary general Ahmed Ben Helli on Wednesday welcomed Sisi&39;s offer to mediate between Palestinian factions for a speedy reconciliation to pave the way to revive the peace process.
In 1979, Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel after years of conflict, and today it remains an influential player in the region.
Washington believes the only way to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a negotiated settlement resulting in two states side-by-side within recognised borders.
Frustrations at US approach
But the US does not believe the time is yet ripe to resume direct dialogue, preferring instead to lobby both to make confidence-building measures to reduce violence and calm tensions.
Some in the international community are becoming frustrated with that approach, and France – and now Egypt – are pushing for a quicker resumption of efforts to seek a final deal.
There is sympathy for that goal in Washington, and an acceptance that there is a risk that the process could become unsalvageable if it is allowed to fester, but there is also caution about pushing too fast.
"We&39;ve said repeatedly that we believe negotiations are the only way to solve the problem. We&39;ve also said that we&39;re not ourselves trying to resume negotiations at this point," the US official said.
"The secretary is very interested in hearing some more about the details of what President Sisi has in mind."