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Exclusive: Tony Blair 'organising a Sisi-Netanyahu' summit Open in fullscreen

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Exclusive: Tony Blair 'organising a Sisi-Netanyahu' summit

Blair reportedly advises Sisi on matters of policy [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 July, 2016

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The former British PM is working with Israeli officials to pave the way for summit between the two countries' leaders before year's end, sources tell The New Arab.
Former British PM and Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair is working with Israeli and Egyptian officials to secure a summit between Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Binyamin Netanyahu before the end of the year, Egyptian diplomatic sources have told The New Arab.

Blair is leading the efforts with adviser to the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Molcho, according to the diplomats.

Blair held talks for the purpose with Netanyahu and Molcho on Monday, a day after the Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shukri visited occupied Jerusalem, to prepare for the summit, the sources said.

The sources pointed out that one key point was the timing of the summit and the best way to "sell it" without denting Sisi's popularity among Egyptians, many of whom are opposed to normalisation with Israel.

Shukri's visit was to meant to gauge the Egyptian public's acceptance of a high-level rapprochement between Egypt and Israel, the sources claimed, saying Netanyahu has not visited Egypt since he met with deposed President Hosni Mubarak days before the revolution of January 25, 2011, in Sharm el-Sheikh

There are differences between the joint Egyptian and Israeli committee led by intelligence officers and diplomats from both sides, over whether to hold a bilateral summit or expand it into a regional summit to discuss Sisi's initiative for resuming peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Sisi is counting on his friend Blair to design the most favourable political demarche that would bring the Egyptian strongman back to the regional forefront and increase his international legitimacy

Sisi, the sources continued, prefers a four-way summit bringing together Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the Jordanian King Abdullah II; or a three-way summit without Jordan, to avoid giving the impression of a bilateral rapprochement between Tel Aviv and Cairo.

Sisi's desire has been communicated to Netanyahu by Blair.

Netanyahu prefers rapprochement with Egypt to be at the core of the summit, and for the negotiations with the Palestinians to come at a later stage, after the Palestinian Authority "puts its house in order," according to the sources.

Analysts say Sisi is counting on his friend Blair to design the most favourable political demarche that would bring the Egyptian strongman back to the regional forefront and increase his international legitimacy, without undermining his standing with the Egyptian people.

According to the diplomatic sources, the most likely venue of the summit will be the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, with the final details to be agreed in the coming weeks.

Previous efforts led by Sisi and Blair to bring about a breakthrough on the Israeli-Palestinian track were met with failure.

In May, Netanyahu reportedly reneged on his promise to bring in pro-peace elements into his government at the behest of Sisi and Blair, instead allying with far-right anti-peace parties.

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