Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a three-way summit on March 21 in Egypt with the Egyptian and Emirati leaders against the background of the Iran nuclear talks, Israeli media said.
Bennett’s surprise visit to Egypt where he met President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was reported by Israeli media.
Shortly afterwards, the official Emirati news agency WAM said that Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and de facto UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan was also in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for talks with Sisi.
Sisi’s spokesman Bassam Radi confirmed Sheikh Mohammed’s visit, which WAM said was aimed at “advancing cooperation across all fronts for the benefit of the two countries and their peoples”.
Sheikh Mohammed and Sisi “reviewed issues of interest, and the latest developments on the regional and international scene”, and stressed “the importance of strengthening Arab solidarity in the face of common challenges”, WAM said, without elaborating.
Israeli and Egyptian officials did not immediately confirm Bennett’s visit.
But several Israeli media outlets reported the three leaders were discussing reports that Iran and Western powers, including the US, are close to a deal to revive the 2015 nuclear accord.
Bennett is vehemently opposed to the pact between Israel’s arch-foe Iran and world powers.
The US had said last week that Washington and Tehran were close to agreement on restoring the accord.
“We are close to a possible deal, but we’re not there yet,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on March 16. “We do think the remaining issues can be bridged.”
Bennett has appealed to Israel’s key ally the US not to remove Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from its blacklist of foreign terrorist organisations as part of a renewed accord.
Iran last week said there were just two final issues to be sorted out before agreeing to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) aimed at preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
The outstanding issues, according to sources close to the talks, are Iran’s demands for “economic guarantees” in case a future US administration changes its stance and abrogates the agreement, as then president Donald Trump did in 2018; and that Washington remove its official terror group designation on Iran’s Guards.
Direct negotiations have been ongoing for months in the Austrian capital Vienna between Iran, China, Britain, France, Germany and Russia. Talks with the US have taken place indirectly.
On March 20, Bennett denounced efforts to sign a revived nuclear deal “at any cost”.
Israel and Egypt are bound by a peace treaty since 1979.
In 2020, the UAE became the third Arab country to normalise ties with Israel, after Jordan which made peace with Israel in 1994.