Britain’s Sunak meets Palestinian and Egyptian leaders in Cairo

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LONDON (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met the leaders of Egypt and the Palestinian Authority in Cairo on Friday, agreeing with them on the need to let humanitarian aid into Gaza and avoid civilian casualties in Israel’s war with Hamas.

Sunak met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as part of a diplomatic tour of the Middle East.

During the talks Sunak stressed the imperative of avoiding a wider regional conflict and preventing any further unnecessary loss of civilian life, his office said.

“We’ve also made good progress on tangible areas like ensuring access for humanitarian aid to those who need it,” Sunak told broadcasters in Cairo.

When U.S. President Joe Biden visited on Wednesday, Arab leaders cancelled a meeting with him after a blast at a Gaza Strip hospital. Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed each other for the explosion.

Biden did leave with a promise from Israel to allow limited shipments to Gaza via the Egyptian controlled Rafah crossing, provided the aid is monitored to prevent any reaching Hamas.

“When this crisis unfolded, one thing we have prioritised consistently is getting the Rafah crossing (open). It’s been a feature of all my conversations, and I’m very pleased that that will now imminently happen,” Sunak said.

“(Sisi) and I had a good discussion about how the UK can provide practical assistance on the ground to ensure the sustainability of that aid through the crossing.”

Sunak also visited Jerusalem on Thursday to show support for Israel and to try to negotiate a way to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas. He then met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, where he encouraged bin Salman to use Saudi’s leadership in the region to support stability.

In Friday’s talks with Abbas, Sunak’s office said he expressed “deep condolences” for the loss of civilian lives in Gaza, including the destruction of the hospital.

Britain has said it is assessing the incident and has not said who it thinks was responsible for the blast.

“The leaders agreed on the need for all parties to take steps to protect civilians, and civilian infrastructure, and minimise the loss of innocent lives,” Sunak’s office said.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Alistair Smout; Editing by Grant McCool)