Asia

Egypt says Israeli prime minister to visit, hold talks


CAIRO (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is to visit Egypt on Monday for talks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt’s office of the presidency said.

There was no immediate confirmation of the meeting from the Israeli government.

It would be the first official visit by an Israeli premier since 2010, when then-President Hosni Mubarak hosted a summit with Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Less than a year later, Egypt was rocked by a popular uprising that toppled Mubarak.

Bennett and the Egyptian president are expected to discuss bilateral relations, efforts aimed at reviving the peace process as well as other regional and international developments, said a statement issued by el-Sissi’s office.

Over nearly a decade, Israeli officials have held covert meetings with their Arab counterparts, some of which were only announced after the fact. Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to reach a peace agreement with Israel.

The meeting will be a boost for Bennett, Israel’s new prime minister who took office in June and is still trying to establish his foreign-policy credentials. His predecessor, Netanyahu, billed himself as a global statesman but never was able to hold a public meeting with the Egyptian president.

The tense situation in the Gaza Strip is likely to be at the top of Monday’s agenda.

Israel, with Egypt’s help, has maintained a tight blockade over Gaza since the Palestinian militant group Hamas overran the territory in 2007 in an effort to prevent it from importing weapons. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars, most recently in May, and Egypt often serves as a mediator between the two enemies. In the last war, it successfully brokered a ceasefire that brought the fighting largely to a stop.

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