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Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, September 5, 2021. — Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via Reuters
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, September 5, 2021. — Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via Reuters

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CAIRO, Sept 13 — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi today for talks on Israeli-Palestinian relations and bilateral issues, Egypt’s presidency said, in the first official trip by an Israeli head of government to Egypt for a decade.

Bennett, the head of a far-right party who took office in June, was invited to visit by Sisi last month and the two were due to meet in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on the southern tip of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

The discussions were expected to address “ways and efforts to revive the peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians, Egypt’s presidency said in a statement, as well as bilateral and regional matters.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014 and analysts say there is little prospect of reviving them. Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood.

One focus of today’s talks will be the situation in the Gaza Strip, where Egypt helped broker a ceasefire after 11 days of conflict in May between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that controls the enclave, diplomatic and security sources said.

An uptick in cross-border violence since late August has tested the fragile truce. Over the past week, Palestinian militants have fired rockets into Israel for three nights in a row, drawing Israeli air strikes.

Bennett and Sisi were also expected to discuss regional issues including Iran’s influence in the Middle East and the crisis in Lebanon, diplomats said.

Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, but relations have remained cool, restricted to security cooperation and limited economic links.

Egypt’s brokering of the Gaza truce allowed it to reassert its diplomatic role in the region in the wake of deals by four Arab states to normalise ties with Israel last year.

The last official visit by an Israeli prime minister to Egypt was when Benjamin Netanyahu met former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in January 2011 in Sharm el-Sheikh, just before the uprising that toppled Mubarak. — Reuters

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