CAIRO (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held brief talks with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on Wednesday, a day after the Egyptian leader proposed new efforts to try to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Kerry had already been scheduled to meet with Sisi to discuss a series of meetings on the Libya and Syria conflicts which took place earlier this week in Vienna.
A U.S. official said Kerry would explore in more detail Sisi’s proposal, made on Tuesday during a speech, to mediate a reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions to pave the way toward a lasting peace accord with the Israelis.
In a statement after the meeting, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said they had discussed a “range of bilateral and regional issues, including recent developments on Libya and Syria.”
During the meeting Kerry “stressed the importance of Egypt’s role as a regional partner”, Toner said.
Egypt was the first of a handful of Arab countries to recognize Israel with a U.S.-sponsored peace accord in 1979, but Egyptian attitudes toward their neighbor remain chilly.
Sisi’s proposal, made during an impromptu speech at an economic conference, came as France pushes for an international conference to launch peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told France’s foreign minister on Sunday that his country remained opposed to Paris’s initiative, which was born of French frustration over the absence of movement toward a two-state solution since U.S.-brokered talks collapsed in 2014.
Kerry spoke by phone with Netanyahu on Tuesday and with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas earlier in the week, the U.S. official said, without elaborating.
During the meetings in Vienna on Monday and Tuesday, world powers said they were ready to consider demands from Libya’s new unity government for exemptions from a U.N. arms embargo to help take control of the lawless country.
The West is counting on the U.N.-backed unity government to tackle Islamic State in Libya and to stop new flows of migrants heading across the Mediterranean, though the newly instated leaders are still not in control of the capital city Tripoli.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton