CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt will take part in a Bahrain conference this week on Palestinian economic development in order to evaluate the proposed $50 billion (£39 billion) “Peace to Prosperity” plan, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday.
The June 25-26 conference in the Bahraini capital Manama will discuss a U.S.-led economic vision to be presented by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, part of a wider plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
But the lack of a political solution, which Washington has said would be unveiled later, has prompted rejection not only from Palestinians but in Arab countries with which Israel would seek normal relations.
“It is important for Egypt to participate to listen to this proposition and evaluate it…but not in terms of approving it,” Shoukry, whose country made peace with Israel in 1979, said in a televised interview with Russia Today.
“We have the right to evaluate it, view it and develop a vision about it, but the final decision about it goes back to the main stakeholder – the Palestinian Authority.”
The economy-first approach toward reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in which Palestinians are seeking an independent state, has prompted a Palestinian boycott of the conference.
Kushner’s plan includes 179 infrastructure and business projects. More than half of the $50 billion would be spent in the economically troubled Palestinian territories over 10 years while the rest would be split between Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.
The plan provides for infrastructure projects including power, water and road connections in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, according to an outline released by the White House. Investments there could benefit Palestinians living in adjacent Gaza.
Palestinian officials briefed on Kushner’s plan told Reuters the political aspect envisages an expansion of Gaza, a small coastal strip, into Egypt’s North Sinai region, though Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy, said “rumours” about such a redrawing of borders were false.
“There will be no renouncing one bit, one grain of sand from the lands of Sinai, which many honourable Egyptians were martyred defending,” Shoukry said.
Egyptian liberal and leftist parties have condemned the conference as an attempt to “consecrate and legitimise” Israeli occupation of Arab land. They said in a joint statement that any Arab participation would be “beyond the limits of normalisation” with Israel.
(Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Mark Heinrich)