BEIRUT — With Israel and senior US officials absent, the Cairo "Peace Summit" on Saturday did not yield an agreement on containing the violence in Gaza.
The "Summit for Peace," hosted by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, aimed to discuss preventing a broader regional conflict. Representatives from countries including Jordan, France, Germany, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, the United States, Qatar and South Africa attended the one-day meeting, together with United Nations and European Union officials.
Arab leaders strongly condemned the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and called for an end to the decades-long cycle of violence. However, the meeting ended without a joint statement from the leaders and foreign ministers, two weeks into a conflict that has killed thousands and caused a humanitarian catastrophe in the blockaded Gaza enclave of 2.3 million people.
The latest round of violence began on Oct. 7 when Hamas fighters launched operation "Al Aqsa flood," fired rockets and attacked Israeli territory by land, air and sea. There are concerns about a growing humanitarian crisis due to Israel's response in the densely populated Gaza enclave of 2.3 million residents.
The absence of some Western leaders, including the German Chancellor, British Prime Minister and French President, had tempered expectations for the summit. Notably, the United States, a key ally of Israel and historically involved in peace efforts in the region, only sent an ambassador's deputy from its Cairo embassy, and Israel did not participate.
Meanwhile, Israel is preparing for a potential ground assault on Gaza, with the death toll in the conflict exceeding 4,100 Palestinians.
What was said at the summit?
Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas: He said,"Palestinians would not be displaced or forced from their land, expressing their determination to remain in their homes."
European Council President, Charles Michel: He said the main goal of the summit was "to listen to each other."
"We understand that we need to work more together" on issues including the humanitarian situation, avoiding a regional escalation and a Palestinian-Israeli peace process, he added.
Germany and the UK: Germany stressed the importance of considering the humanitarian situation in Gaza in Israel's fight against Hamas, while Britain urged the Israeli military to respect international law and exercise restraint.
Jordan: King Abdullah criticized what he called a "global silence regarding Israel's attacks, which have claimed thousands of lives in Gaza and left over a million people homeless." Jordan, home to many Palestinian refugees and their descendants, fears a wider conflagration would give Israel the chance to expel Palestinians en masse from the West Bank.
Egypt: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said his country opposed what he called the "displacement of Palestinians" into Egypt's largely desert Sinai region, adding the only solution was an independent Palestinian state. Egypt is concerned about security near the Gaza border in northeastern Sinai, where it faced an Islamist insurgency, which peaked in 2013 but has largely been suppressed.
Shortly before the summit, trucks carrying humanitarian aid began entering Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Egypt has been working to deliver humanitarian relief to Gaza through this crossing, which is not under Israeli control.