New Security Council chair Egypt pledges support for Palestinians
CAIRO - Egypt will use its influence as chair of the UN Security Council in May to defend the interests of the Palestinian people, the presidency said on Monday.
The pledge, made during talks between President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, comes after France called for an international conference later this month to relaunch peace talks.
Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations have been frozen since a US-brokered initiative collapsed in April 2014.
Last month, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try to relaunch the peace process.
Abbas and Sisi discussed "ways of coordinating Arab efforts and the steps that need to be taken within the UN Security Council" as Egypt holds the rotating presidency of the council for the month of May, a statement said.
The two leaders said efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be bolstered in light of regional and international initiatives, including France's decision to host a conference.
The Palestinian leadership has welcomed the French initiative but Israel opposes it, insisting that direct and unconditional negotiations with the Palestinians are the only way forward.
Ayrault has said that the aim of hosting a ministerial conference in May is to prepare for an international summit later this year that would include the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Paris's initiative comes amid tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and as a wave of violence since October last year has killed 204 Palestinians and 28 Israelis, according to an AFP count.