Mideast Leaders Announce Summit in Egypt (AP) By ANTONIO CASTANEDA CAIRO, EGYPT 02/02/05 4:36 PM)
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS
AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS Articles-Index-Top
CAIRO, Egypt - Egypt on Wednesday invited the leaders of Israel, the
Palestinian Authority and Jordan to a summit next week, a move
indicating confidence that a much-anticipated breakthrough in the
Israeli-Palestinian peace process is in the offing.
Word of the summit, which all parties agreed to attend, came as
Damascus-based leaders of the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and
Islamic Jihad met Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo, seen as a
key step toward securing a truce from Palestinian factions.
The summit, to be held Tuesday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-
Sheik, was expected to focus on a possible Palestinian prisoner
release, the fate of Palestinian fugitives and a West Bank troop
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
and King Abdullah of Jordan have all accepted invitations to attend
from summit host, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The White House welcomed the development. "That´s an encouraging step
that´s being taken to build upon the recent discussions between the
Israelis and the Palestinians," White House press secretary Scott
McClellan said. "There have been a number of encouraging steps from
both parties that show that they want to seize this opportunity
before us to move forward."
The expected arrival of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the
region over the weekend also intensified pressure on both sides to
settle some differences over what should be announced after the
meeting. There has been no word on whether Rice might attend the
Israeli television reported the summit would also likely result in
the return of Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors to Israel. Egypt
withdrew its envoy after the latest Palestinian uprising began in
September 2000. The violence also caused Jordan to delay posting a
new ambassador. Egyptian and Jordanian officials declined to confirm
Judith Kipper, an analyst at the New York-based Council on Foreign
Relations, said the talks would be about "feel-good symbolism, and
then the real work begins."
The Egyptian president´s office released a statement saying the
summit was arranged in view of "the critical state that the peace
process in the Middle East is going through" and was designed
to "realize tangible progress on the Palestinian track."
The statement also said Mubarak, who had steadfastly refused to meet
with Sharon since he became prime minister in 2001, would discuss
with the Israeli premier ways "to push peace on the Syrian track."
Damascus has been saying it wants to resume peace talks with Israel,
which collapsed in 2000. But Israel says Syria must first clamp down
on Damascus-based Palestinian militant groups responsible for killing
hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings.
Egypt, a key U.S, ally, is seen as a linchpin in Middle East peace
The Arab state was the first to sign a peace treaty with Israel and
has been trying for months to coax Palestinian militant factions to
stop attacks against Israelis. Egypt is also expected to play a key
role in developing Palestinian security services in neighboring Gaza
following any planned Israeli withdrawal.
The announcement of the summit comes amid hopes of an imminent
breakthrough in efforts to secure a cease-fire from Palestinian
"There is no agreement yet on a truce" with Israel, Islamic Jihad
spokesman Nafez Azzam said in a phone interview from the Gaza Strip.
But the talks are "taking place in a positive atmosphere."
Militant leaders say any final agreement depends on Israel´s
willingness to make crucial concessions, including ending targeted
killings of Palestinians leaders and releasing Palestinian prisoners.
Israel has resisted pledging to halt attacks on Palestinian militants
but its officials have said they will "respond to quiet with quiet."
Egypt´s intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, met here Tuesday with
Islamic Jihad´s Damascus-based leader Ramadan Shallah. Suleiman is
expected to meet Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal later Wednesday.
Egypt believes a truce can revive the U.S.-backed "road map" plan for
Israeli-Palestinian peace and wants to ensure calm in the Gaza Strip
after Israel carries out its planned military withdrawal.
Mashaal told the Arab TV station Al-Jazeera that a Palestinian cease-
fire was not "dependent on a summit," but on Israeli willingness to
"The main issue is an Israeli regression on its position, which means
an Israeli commitment to the conditions put forth by the resistance,"
Mashaal said. "Without this commitment, if there are many summits,
the situation won´t change."
But despite the recent momentum, concerns persist about the ability
of Palestinian security forces to restrain militant groups.
"The Palestinian leader is making a full effort against any kind of
military operation against Israel," said Egypt´s last ambassador to
Israel, Mohammed Bassiouni, who now heads a security committee on
Egypt´s advisory Shura Council. (Copyright 2005 Associated Press.
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY