CAIRO: US Vice-President Joe Biden began a five-day tour of the Middle East yesterday to push for Palestinian-Israeli peace talks but a proposed visit to Egypt was postponed due to President Hosni Mubarak’s surgery in Germany.
Mubarak underwent surgery in Germany last Saturday to have his gall bladder removed and remains there, thus a meeting with Biden could not be arranged during his visit to the region.
His first stop was Israel, where he was briefed by US peace envoy George Mitchell, who was already there, on the push for the resumption of talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, which have been frozen since Israel attacked the Gaza Strip in December 2008.
It was reported that he was also to attempt to convince Israel not to launch a preemptive strike on Iran, though comments he made in an interview with Israel newspaper Yediot Aharonot before his visit indicated strong US support for Israel in the face of any possible Iranian threat.
“I can promise the Israeli people that we will confront, as allies, any security challenge it will face. A nuclear-armed Iran would constitute a threat not only to Israel, it would also constitute a threat to the United States, Biden said.
Emad Gad from Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told Daily News Egypt, “The Americans do not want a military solution in Iran; Israel cannot launch a preemptive strike on Iran without US support. Biden will be in Israel to explain that sanctions must be given a chance.
The US is pushing for economic sanctions against Iran in order to force it to give up its nuclear program, which Iran insists will only be utilized for peaceful purposes.
“Our administration is mobilizing the international community to insist that Iran fulfill its international commitments. If it does not, it will have to deal with serious consequences and with increasing isolation, Biden said.
The vice-president will stay in Israel until Thursday. Today he will meet Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. On Wednesday he will meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad. He will also hold talks with Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair.
On Thursday Biden will give a speech at Tel Aviv University and then travel to Jordan to hold talks with King Abdallah II.