Mubarak, Olmert meet to strengthen ties

Daily News Egypt
5 Min Read

By Agence France-Presse SHARM EL SHEIKH: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Hosni Mubarak were to meet in Sharm El-Sheikh Sunday in the first talks between the two leaders since Olmert assumed his position. I intend to strengthen ties with Egypt, the largest Arab country in the region, Olmert told Israeli public radio before leaving for the Red Sea resort. The talks were expected to focus on ways to revive the peace process, which suffered a fresh blow when the Islamist movement Hamas won legislative elections in January and formed the Palestinian government. The summit will be Olmert s first opportunity to explain to the veteran Egyptian president his controversial plan to unilaterally define Israel s borders with the occupied West Bank if no deal can be reached with the Palestinians. Egypt favors a negotiated solution and wants Israel to ease its blockade on the Palestinians, warning that economic hardship could fuel extremism. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told Israeli radio he had suggested that Olmert ask Mubarak for the airport of El-Arish in North Sinai to be used to export goods from the Gaza Strip to Europe, rather than Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. The summit threatened to be overshadowed by the killing of two Egyptian policemen on Friday by Israeli soldiers, although both sides appeared keen to downplay its impact. If mistakes were made in this incident, they were made in good faith and should not affect relations between Egypt and Israel, Tshai Hanegbi, chairman of the parliamentary defense and foreign affairs committee, told Israeli public radio. On Saturday, Egypt s official MENA news agency claimed that Israeli soldiers dragged the bodies of two policemen onto Israeli territory after shooting them on the Egyptian side of the border. The summit, however, will be more about establishing positions rather than producing results, analysts say. It is clear that the Israelis have already decided what to do, said Samer Shehata, a professor of Middle East politics at Georgetown University. There will be no substantive communication or any real changes on the ground as a result of this meeting. The best (Egypt) can do is show it is taking the Palestinians by the ear to be more cooperative with Israel and the United States. Peace talks are within the remit of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas rather than the Hamas-led government, but Olmert has said the moderate Palestinian leader cannot be used as a fig leaf for a movement committed to the destruction of the Jewish state. Olmert told Israel s Yediot Aharonot daily on Thursday that he would meet with Abbas at the end of this month. It would be the first summit between the Palestinian leader and the current Israeli prime minister, whose new coalition government was sworn in by parliament on May 4. Egypt s position is quite clearly that there is a negotiating partner, Mahmoud Abbas, Walid Kazziha, a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo told AFP. Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah called on Hamas Wednesday to recognize an Arab initiative for peace in the Middle East that envisages normalizing ties with Israel. Egypt likes to show motion, and motion in itself is important, said Mohammed Sayed El-Said, a Cairo-based analyst with the Ahram Center for Strategic Studies. And if the summit can achieve something it removes pressure on U.S.-Egyptian, relations which is essential for the existing regime, he said. In recent weeks, Egypt has been at the receiving end of harsh criticism from the United States and the international community over its treatment of pro-democracy activists. Hundreds of pro-reform activists have been detained, with allegations that two of the detainees have been tortured. Egypt cannot afford such negative attention, analysts say, as it could jeopardize the vital assistance it receives from Washington. Egypt is a leading recipient of U.S. economic and military aid and has received more than $60 billion since 1979, including $34 billion in foreign military financing credits to buy U.S. materiel and services

Share This Article
Leave a comment