US has months to show progress on Mideast peace, says Egypt ambassador

Daily News Egypt
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WASHINGTON: Nabil Fahmy, Egypt’s ambassador to Washington, said the Bush administration has only months to show real progress toward Mideast peace and will be judged harshly if peace talks fall apart again.

“You’re the arbiter now, Fahmy said Thursday. “If it fails, it’s your failure.

Fahmy said last month’s US-hosted peace conference at Annapolis, Maryland, was a good start toward a new push to resolve the six-decade-old conflict.

The veteran diplomat warned, however, that skepticism is widespread and the Annapolis conference’s credibility is already dented.

Fahmy said the peace process launched at Annapolis has just a few months to take root. It must show real progress by spring, when Russia wants to host a follow-up conference, Fahmy said.

“If we go to Moscow, or wherever the next meeting is, without some traction this will break down, Fahmy said.

The United States, as the new owner of the Israeli-Palestinian peace mantle, should have stopped Israel from announcing expansion of a West Bank settlement days after the conference closed, Fahmy said.

“You have to take the position of the arbiter in a much more objective manner, Fahmy told reporters.

That is a polite way of saying any renewed peace talks will falter if the United States is perceived as biased in favor of Israel.

“It’s all about land, Fahmy said. “Anything that eats up land or creates obstacles on the land to resolving this is an affront to the whole process.

The Bush administration took three days to respond in detail to the Israeli settlement expansion, although Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice eventually issued an unusual public rebuke to Israel.

The West Bank would make up the bulk of an eventual independent Palestinian state, and the growth of Jewish settlements there is a volatile issue complicating a final settlement of the conflict.

Egypt was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel and has played a crucial role in shepherding past peace efforts. Egypt is a close Arab ally of the United States and its views carry significant weight in Washington.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was among Arab allies who warned the Bush administration that it was falling down on what some Arab nations view as the US obligation to try to broker peace.

Until now, Bush has resisted the kind of intensive involvement in Mideast peacemaking that disappointed previous presidents when negotiations fell apart. Associated Press

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