May 18, 2016 / 1:38 PM / 2 years ago

Kerry in Cairo to talk Mideast peace, Libya

CAIRO (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Cairo on Wednesday for talks with Egypt‘s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Libya and to explore a proposal by the Egyptian leader to try to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference in Vienna, Austria, May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Kerry’s brief Cairo stop follows a series of international meetings in Vienna on ways to end conflicts in Libya and Syria. 

A U.S. official said Kerry wanted to explore in more detail a proposal on Tuesday by Sisi to mediate a reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions to pave the way toward a lasting peace accord with the Israelis.

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 neighbors remain chilly.

Sisi’s proposal, made during an impromptu speech at an economic conference, comes as France is pushing to organize an international conference to launch peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told France’s foreign minister on Sunday that Israel remained opposed to the French initiative, born of French frustration over the absence of movement toward a two-state solution since U.S.-brokered talks collapsed in 2014.

Kerry also spoke by phone to Netanyahu on Tuesday, the U.S. official said without elaborating.

Kerry will elaborate on details of a meeting in Vienna on Monday in which 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 UN-backed unity government to tackle Islamic State in Libya and 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; Editing by Toby Chopra

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