Mubarak invites Olmert to Egypt

Daily Star Egypt Staff
3 Min Read

JERUSALEM: President Hosni Moubarak on Friday invited Israeli prime minister-designate Ehud Olmert to visit Cairo after forming his new cabinet, the premier s office said. Mubarak telephoned Olmert to wish him luck with his consultations to form a new coalition after his Kadima party emerged the largest faction in Israel s general election on March 28, the prime minister s office said. The date of the visit is due to be fixed next week, Olmert s office said. On April 6, an Israeli government official already announced that Mubarak and Olmert had agreed to meet once the cabinet is formed. Olmert has until May 4 to form a government and can ask for a two-week extension if necessary. Meanwhile, Egypt is trying to bring together Olmert and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to resume peace talks, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit said Thursday.

In a parallel effort, Cairo reiterated calls to the Palestinian militant group Hamas to accept an Arab plan for peace with Israel.

This Arab initiative, adopted at a 2002 summit, proposes Arab recognition of Israel in return for land the Jewish state took from its neighbors in the 1967 war. Israel has not accepted the plan.

Egypt s separate high-level efforts with both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides aim at preparing a suitable atmosphere for a meeting, Abul-Gheit told reporters, citing the 2005 Sharm El-Sheikh talks where Israel s last prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and Abbas agreed on a cease-fire after four years of bloodshed.

Abbas, a member of the Fatah Party that led the Palestinian Authority government for the past decade, is at loggerheads with Hamas, which took power earlier this month, over its refusal to recognize or engage in direct talks with Israel.

Hamas has come under financial pressure to change its position since the U.S. and the European Union have halted aid to the Palestinians.

The initiative is a fixed and unwavering Egyptian demand. It was also approved by the Palestinian Authority and it emerged from an agreement between the PLO (PalestineLiberation Organization) and the Israeli government, he said.

Arab League summits have reaffirmed support for the initiative each year since it was adopted.

The Palestinian government should adhere to all the agreements signed by the (Palestinian) Authority in the past 10 years. We cannot retreat from such issues, Abul-Gheit said.

What the Palestinian community, represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization, agreed upon should remain binding.

On Saturday, Mahmoud Zahar, Foreign Minister of the Hamas-led government, met in Cairo with Arab League envoys who urged him to consider the 2002 Arab plan. Zahar promised that he would discuss the initiative with his government. -AP

Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab states to have signed peace treaties with Israel. Agencies

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