President says Israeli-Palestinian summit premature

Daily Star Egypt Staff
4 Min Read

CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak said in an interview published Monday it was too early to plan an Israeli-Palestinian summit, stressing the need to settle internal Palestinian disputes first.

He told the semi-official Al-Gomhuriya newspaper in an interview published in Monday s edition, distributed late Sunday that it was premature to speak of a Palestinian-Israeli summit in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Such a meeting requires that several steps be taken first, the most important is to put the Palestinian house in order to enable the Palestinians to speak in a single voice, Mubarak said.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat also indicated that talk of a summit was premature before the announcement of a new Israeli government which should be unveiled in the coming days. It is too soon talking about this issue before the formation of the Israeli government, Erakat told Palestinian radio on Monday.

President Hosni Mubarak is organizing a meeting between interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, hoping to restart Middle East peace talks, the Egyptian foreign minister said.

Mubarak invited both leaders to meet him in the next few days, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit said Sunday. Israeli officials said last week that Mubarak had invited Olmert for talks and the Israeli leader accepted the invitation.

There is an attempt to arrange for a three-way meeting after the Israeli government is formed to resume the peace negotiations, Abul-Gheit told reporters.

He did not say when the discussions would be or divulge further details. Other Egyptian officials said the meeting might be held later this week in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

But a senior Israeli government official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said later Sunday that Olmert intends to meet Mubarak in Egypt after a new Israeli coalition government is formed but there are no plans for talks with Abbas and such a meeting has not been discussed.

Palestinian officials said Abbas is on his way to visit Turkey and his senior aides could not immediately be reached for comment.

A meeting between Olmert and Abbas would be the first between Israeli and Egyptian leaders since February 2005, when Mubarak brokered a cease-fire during meetings with the, then Israeli, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Palestinians in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Egypt is a key mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.

On Saturday, Egypt sent two of its top intelligence officers to Gaza to try to end rising tension between the militant Hamas group and its rival Fatah that had erupted into violent clashes and mass protests across the Palestinians areas, after a Hamas leader accused Abbas of treachery.

Egyptian officials, speaking on condition on anonymity because they were not authorized to give statements, said Egypt also plans a reconciliation meeting between Hamas leaders and Abbas in Cairo this month.

Abbas, leader of the Fatah Party, favors talks with Israel. But the Hamas militants, who took power in parliament and the Cabinet after January elections, refuse to end their violent campaign against Israel or recognize its right to exist. Olmert has said he would not negotiate with Abbas until Hamas changes policy.

Hamas hard-line stance has already cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in Western aid and Israeli transfer payments. Agencies

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