U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson emphasizes ‘Jerusalem “final status” only through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations’

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson started an official tour of the Middle East yesterday in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.

Following an extensive meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, Secretary Tillerson announced that Washington remains fully committed in supporting Egypt’s battle against terrorism. “We continue to be steadfast partners in their response to these attacks throughout this time. We agreed that we would continue our close cooperation on counterterrorism measures, including our joint commitment to the defeat of ISIS and Egypt has been a very important member of the ‘Defeat ISIS Coalition’ from the beginning. Egypt deals with the threats of ISIS themselves and are dealing with it certainly, currently, in the Sinai,” Tillerson said in a joint press conference with Shoukry.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry noted that they also discussed the importance of finding a solution to the decades old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has emphasized was a significant element that will lead to the restoration of stability across the chaotic region. FM Shoukry noted, “We discussed once again the importance of finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, on the basis of a two-state solution, and the importance of the continuation of U.S. efforts in reaching a final resolution. We have put forward a vision that, on many occasions, the President (Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi) has emphasized in order to end this conflict in order to restore stability to the region as a whole,” he said.

With regard to Jerusalem – Secretary Tillerson attempted to play down President Trump’s decision to recognize the ancient city as Israel’s capital. The American top diplomat said, “He (U.S. President Donald Trump) was not advocating for any change to the status quo as to oversight of the holy sites, recognizing the proper role of existing authorities. And the second (point) is that the final boundaries of Jerusalem are yet to be determined, and that those will be decided among the parties. I think it’s often times those two important points seem to have been overlooked in his announcement, and yes the U.S. is still committed to the peace process and still believes we have an important role to play in bringing the parties together and seeing a resolution to this and President Trump is committed to that,” Secretary Tillerson affirmed.

The American top diplomat also took the opportunity to emphasize Washington’s continued advocacy for fair, transparent and free elections – ahead of Egypt’s presidential elections that are scheduled for next month.