Israel PM to discuss peace moves with Mubarak

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JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he will head to Egypt this week to update Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on latest developments in talks with the Palestinians.

"On Tuesday, I will travel to Cairo for a meeting with Mubarak, the fifth such meeting in a year," Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting.

"We will discuss our intention to move to direct negotiations with the Palestinians," he said.

For the past two months, Israel and the Palestinians have been engaged in a series of US-backed "proximity talks" which has seen US envoy George Mitchell shuttling between the two sides.

But Israel wants to shift to direct negotiations — in a move which was publicly backed by US President Barack Obama when he met with Netanyahu in Washington last week.

The two leaders also discussed a series of confidence building measures aimed at bolstering trust between Israel and the Palestinians — a subject likely to come up in Tuesday’s talks.

Netanyahu and Mubarak last met on May 3 in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, a few days before the start of the indirect peace talks.

Direct negotiations between the two parties broke down in December 2008 when Israel launched a massive 22-day war on Gaza.

Last week, two of Netanyahu’s senior aides travelled to Cairo for talks with Egypt’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to prepare for a possible visit by the premier, media reports said.

The two countries maintain a cold diplomatic relationship although Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, has often acted as broker in Israeli-Palestinian talks.

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