CAIRO: Israeli President Shimon Peres will arrive in Egypt Sunday to hold talks with President Hosni Mubarak.
Peres was on a tour of South American countries, which took him to Brazil and Argentina, the first visit by an Israeli president there in 20 years. His visit to Egypt comes in the wake of opposing comments regarding the Israeli Gilo settlement in Jerusalem.
The US considers Gilo – housing 30,000 Israelis in southern Jerusalem – a settlement that has inflamed opinion in Israel. Egypt has also issued a statement on Gilo, condemning Israel’s decision to build 900 more housing units in the settlement.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement that the decision to build more housing units is “provocative and deserves nothing but condemnation.
“Such behavior is deplorable amidst the international attention and intensified endeavors to overcome the current stalemate on which Israel insists to put itself and everyone, throughout intransigence in refusing to freeze the settlement activity on the territories it occupied since 1967, he added.
Peres himself has waded into the issue, responding to American comments by saying, “there is no doubt that Gilo is under Israeli sovereignty . Gilo is part of Israel.
“For years, there has been a dispute between Israel and the United States regarding the status of Jerusalem, he added.
However one thing Peres and the Egyptian government both agree on is that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should remain in his post. Abbas has threatened to step down due to the stalled peace process and stated he would not run in the next election.
In an interview with Egyptian television Wednesday night, Abbas said his decision regarding the matter was final, stating that he had been rendered immobile due to Israeli unwillingness to pursue negotiations.
I told President Obama, if you can t halt settlements, how could I? he said.
Abbas also said, “If [Israeli and US] intentions are sincere, then I am still here and have been here for years – they could have reached a deal with me already. If Israel is prepared to advance peace on the basis of prior agreements and in accordance with the outline laid out in the road map, then it can do so with any Palestinian leader that succeeds me.