Egyptian Foreign Minister on Mideast Peace Talks: 'Difficult to Be Optimistic'

As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators prepared to re-enter peace talks Wednesday in Jerusalem, Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said he considers the prospects to be "very, very difficult."

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Egypt's Nabil Fahmy discusses the prospects for Mideast peace.

As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators prepared to re-enter peace talks Wednesday in Jerusalem, Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said he considers the prospects to be "very, very difficult." His comments came in a web-only portion of an interview with PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Margaret Warner on Tuesday.

"I will never stop trying to work toward a two-state solution, but at the same time, it's very difficult for me to be wholly optimistic given how many times we've failed in the past. I have a continuous commitment to helping the process forward but a realistic assessment that this is going to be very, very difficult," he said, especially with Israel's recent announcement it is building more homes in disputed East Jerusalem and the West Bank, he said. Israel has promised to release 26 Palestinian prisoners ahead of the talks.

A longtime diplomat, Fahmy has been involved in Mideast peace efforts for at least 20 years. He played a major role in the Madrid Peace Talks of 1991 as a top aide to then-Foreign Minister Amr Moussa and in the implementation in the years that followed.

Fahmy said Egypt wants to play a helpful role in this latest effort to make Israeli-Palestinian peace but conceded the current political drama in Egypt is consuming his government's attention for now. "We have been preoccupied with our domestic affairs. That will change, but the world won't wait for us."

Asked how closely the new interim Egyptian government and Israel are cooperating on the common security threat posed by jihadists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Fahmy said Egypt informs Israel when it wants to take certain actions beyond existing agreements. The Camp David accords limit Egypt's military operations in the Sinai.

But he wouldn't comment on whether Egypt had given Israel permission to strike inside the Sinai. Four militants reportedly were killed by Israeli drone strikes over the weekend. "There are different versions as to what exactly happened in that incident," he said.

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