Photo: Flash90, Reuters

US, Egypt discuss Israel-Palestinian conflict

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Egypt today, after wrapping up talks in Jerusalem as part of a regional tour to bolster support for the ceasefire that ended the 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls conflict between Israel and the Gaza terror groups.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Blinken on his first visit to the Israeli capital as the top US diplomat yesterday, giving “a vote of thanks to President Biden and to you for firmly supporting Israel’s right of self-defense” against Gaza rocket barrages.

After Cairo, Blinken will head to Amman.

“Egypt played a critical role in helping to broker the ceasefire and Jordan has long been a voice for peace and stability in the region,” he said at a press conference late yesterday.

Ahead of the top US diplomat’s arrival, President Joe Biden held a telephone conversation with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi yesterday.

The two leaders also discussed ways to revive the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians after the latest wave of violence between the two sides, said the Egyptian presidency, as well as the strengthening of the Gaza ceasefire, international reconstruction efforts and urgent humanitarian aid to the war-torn Strip.

“Biden made clear his country’s determination to work to restore calm and restore conditions as they were in the Palestinian territories, as well as coordinating efforts with all international partners to support the Palestinian Authority as well as reconstruction,” said the Egyptian statement.

According to a White House statement, Biden in the call thanked Egypt for its “successful diplomacy and coordination with the United States” to end the hostilities. The communique reiterated that humanitarian assistance and rebuilding efforts in Gaza should be carried out “in a manner that benefits the people there and not Hamas,” which the US has officially designated as a terror organization.

The conversation marks the second time Biden spoke with Sisi within days to discuss the conflict. This time, however, the discussion was expanded to include bilateral relations and some regional issues.

The two exchanged views on the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam being constructed by Addis Ababa on the Blue Nile that Cairo sees as an existential threat and Khartoum is concerned could affect water flow to its own dams and stations.

Biden “acknowledged Egypt’s concerns about access to Nile River waters and underscored the U.S. interest in achieving a diplomatic resolution that meets the legitimate needs of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia,” said the White House.

The US leader also “underscored the importance of a constructive dialogue on human rights in Egypt,” according to the White House. The Egyptian presidential statement said discussion on human rights in the Arab Republic included “commitment to engage in a transparent dialogue… in this regard.”

Sisi, who headed the Egyptian Armed Forces that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013, has overseen an extensive crackdown on political dissent that has steadily mounted in recent years. The country is also engaged in countering an ongoing insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula against Islamic State-linked terrorists.