Last updated: 3 September, 2014

Egypt’s Sisi says stalled Middle East peace process fuels jihadists

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday blamed the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process for fuelling regional militancy, as Washington tries to shore up support to combat Islamic State jihadists.

Sisi, a former army chief who overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year, is battling jihadist militants in the Sinai Peninsula who have killed scores of policemen and soldiers.

The retired field marshal has sought to link his oft-criticised campaign against Islamist opposition and militants with the fight against organisations such as the Islamic State, which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria.

On Wednesday, however, he singled out the floundering peace process which he said contributed to a “fertile environment for the growth and spread of extremism, violence and terrorism.”

Long drawn out US-brokered negotiations between Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israel collapsed in April with both sides blaming each other.

“What strengthens this environment, and gives excuses to those who exploit religion and terrorism, is the continuation of the Palestinian cause for decades without an equitable resolution,” his office quoted him as saying in a statement.

Egypt was the first Arab country that signed a peace deal with Israel, in 1979, but ties have remained chilly.

Sisi has been supportive of Abbas but hostile to the Hamas rulers of Gaza who have ties with the Muslim Brotherhood movement which he ousted from power.

During the latest Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas, Egypt, a traditional mediator, at first proposed a ceasefire deal which Hamas charged was favourable to the Jewish state.

Hamas eventually agreed last week to another Egyptian proposal after more than a month of devastating fighting.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet Palestinian negotiators on Wednesday in Washington to discuss the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and other issues, the State Department said.