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Reformists, ever bolder, take on Mubarak (JERUSALEM POST) By ORLY HALPERN 02/03/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107314592147 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Egypt and Jordan are likely to announce the return of their ambassadors to Israel at the four way Israel, Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordanian summit scheduled for Tuesday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Israeli diplomatic officials said.

One official said that both Cairo and Amman had been looking for the right time to send back the ambassadors they recalled shortly after the start of violence in September 2000, and that a cease-fire call at the summit may provide the perfect opportunity.

Egypt´s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman extended the surprise invitation for the summit at a meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem Wednesday morning. Invitations were also extended to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II. All of the leaders accepted the invitation.

Sharon´s office issued a statement saying the invitation was issued "in light of progress in the security talks with the Palestinians."

Sharon and Abbas were originally to have met next Tuesday in Jerusalem. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be in Israel and the PA for talks on Sunday and Monday, but US officials said she has a packed schedule, is due in Rome on Tuesday and that they knew of no plans for her to join the summit.

The summit will mark the first time Sharon will meet Abbas since he was elected PA chairman last month, and also the first time Sharon will have a face-to-face meeting with Mubarak since taking office in 2001. While the relations between the two men after Sharon took office had a stormy beginning, they have steadily improved since Sharon announced his disengagement plan in December 2003.

Although they haven´t met since Sharon took office, they do have frequent phone conversations. Mubarak´s release last December of Azzam Azzam improved the atmosphere tremendously.

"Mubarak is trying to create regional momentum for the process," one senior official in the Prime Minister´s Office said. "He wants to show everyone that there are not only those opposed to the process, like Hizbullah and Iran, but also those who support it. He is concerned that extreme elements want to torpedo the process, and wants to show everyone that Abbas has chaperons."

The official said that Israel agreed to hold the meeting in Egypt as a show of appreciation to Mubarak for playing an active role in encouraging Abbas to deploy forces in Gaza and calm down the situation. Israel also wants to see Egypt actively involved in patrolling its border with Gaza and preventing the smuggling of terrorist and arms.

Abbas, who on Wednesday concluded a two-day visit to Turkey, voiced optimism over the planned summit. "We are hopeful," he told reporters at Ankara Airport. "We will go to the meeting with hope." He has reportedly accepted an invitation to visit Iran as well.

A source close to Abbas said the PA chairman always expressed willingness to meet with Sharon. "The problem is not where the summit will take place," the source explained. "Abbas is prepared to meet with Sharon anywhere, but the most important thing is to come up with tangible and fruitful results."

Israeli officials conceded that holding the meeting in Egypt, with Mubarak and Abdullah present, gave it a more dramatic flair than would have been the case had it been held in Jerusalem. But, they said, Sharon would still insist on focusing the discussions on the security steps the Palestinian need to carry out to halt the terror.

Sharon´s chief aid Dov Weisglass is expected to meet Thursday with Palestinian minister Saeb Erekat to discuss the agenda of the meeting.

Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres told reporters that he was very satisfied by the decision to hold this type of summit. "I imagine they are meeting not to argue, but to conclude things, and the wider the conclusions, the better," he said.

Israel is widely expected to announce at the summit the release of some Palestinian security prisoners, although the exact number is a point of contention between the two sides, and also the gradual transfer of security control to the PA of the West Bank cities of Jericho, Bethlehem, Tulkarem, Kalkilya and Ramallah.

The security cabinet is scheduled to meet Thursday to approve these measures.

"We will make gestures, but this must be followed up by a clear Palestinian fulfillment of their commitments," one Israeli diplomatic official said. "The test will be one of performance."

PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said, "The Palestinian leadership is very serious and is doing its utmost to reach an agreement on a mutual cease-fire," he told reporters in Ramallah.

He said that under the current circumstances there is a chance to achieve real peace. "We are now talking about an Israeli withdrawal from five West Bank cities," he said.

According to Qurei, "Today the commanders of the Palestinian security forces met to discuss assuming control of these cities. We hope the summit would lead to an agreement on a withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders."

Qurei also expressed hope that the Palestinian airport in the southern Gaza Strip would be reopened shortly. He pointed out that the PA has reached an agreement with Israel on completing the construction of the first Palestinian seaport in the Gaza Strip. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/03/05)

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