Rice secures Egyptian backing for Mideast summit
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew back to Israel on Tuesday
to resume intense preparations for a looming Middle East summit after
securing cautious Egyptian support for the conference.
She is to hold a second round of talks with Palestinian president
Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday after
one day of talks in Cairo on her seventh visit to the region this year.
Rice’s intense shuttle diplomacy is seeking to advance the stalled
Middle East peace process after nearly seven years of deadlock and to
prepare for an international Israeli-Palestinian meeting in Maryland
Following talks with Rice in Cairo on Tuesday, Egypt said it was
encouraged about the prospects of the Middle East meeting.
“We are encouraged by what (Rice) said and we promised to help her
and help other parties reach this objective, which is launching
negotiations leading to a Palestinian state,” said Egyptian Foreign
Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.
“The secretary helped us today to understand the American position
and she shed lots of light on American efforts between the Israeli and
Palestinian parties,” he said during a news conference with Rice. Rice
described her talks as “very fruitful.”
On Monday, Abul Gheit had suggested it might be better to delay the
talks, slated to be held in Annapolis, Maryland, if a “substantive and
positive document” were not already on the table. Rice dismissed
suggestions of delaying the conference, saying “we have not set a date
for the meeting so it’s a little hard to postpone something for which
you have not set a date.”
A State Department official said Rice had “made some progress here
(in Egypt), no question about that” in winning Egyptian support for the
conference, which has been greeted with widespread scepticism in the
“They (the Egyptians) know the indicators well so when they say they
are discouraged or encouraged I think it is a pretty good barometer,”
the official told reporters travelling with Rice on the plane from Cairo
to Tel Aviv.
Although the Israelis and Palestinians disagree over what exactly
should be on the table at the US-sponsored conference, Rice said on
Monday that a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict was
“Frankly it is time for the establishment of a Palestinian state,”
she said after four hours of talks with Abbas in the occupied West Bank.
But Abul Gheit also insisted that all parties should seek to avoid
the repetition of various peace conferences held since Egypt signed a
peace deal with Israel in 1979 which failed to lead to a Palestinian
“This is an element of the past that should not be repeated,” he