CAIRO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to visit Cairo Sunday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak regarding an array of issues including the prisoner swap exchange with Hamas and the stalled peace process.
“He will come to discuss regional and bilateral issues, as a part of the frequent dialogue between the countries, said a spokesperson from the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.
Netanyahu’s office announced the visit Tuesday, and it is anticipated that the Israeli Prime Minister will also meet with Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman.
Egypt is mediating a proposed prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for Hamas prisoners currently being held by Israel.
Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal was in Cairo Saturday to discuss the prisoner exchange deal with Suleiman – though he told reporters a deal was still far away – as well as to discuss Egyptian attempts to negotiate a political deal between Hamas and its rival faction Fatah.
It was reported that Netanyahu might also bring up in his meeting with Mubarak comments made by Amr Moussa Sunday when he said normalization with Israel was impossible as long as it continued building settlements.
“It is impossible to speak of normalization while Israel rejects to take any significant measure . I don’t believe that any Arab government can offer Israel the gift of normalization on a silver plate, this issue must be closed, he said in response to news that Netanyahu intended to approve plans for new housing units in the West Bank.
Netanyahu will be accompanied by Israeli Minister of Trade Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, but not Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who it appears remains unwelcome on these shores after disparaging remarks against Mubarak before assuming office.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossam Zaki had told the ON TV satellite channel that Egypt’s position towards Lieberman had not changed, and that he was still not welcome in Egypt.
“Lieberman will not come to Egypt, Zaki said, “He will not cross into it.
Lieberman had stated that Mubarak could “go to hell for not visiting Israel except for the funeral of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yithak Rabin and also once called for the bombing of the Aswan Dam.
Since assuming his post in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government he has sought a more conciliatory approach towards Cairo, speaking of his great respect for Egypt, but officials here have been unmoved because they felt that he has not apologized outright for his comments.
The highest-ranking foreign ministry official to visit Egypt was Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Yossi Gal, who was in Cairo last July.