Muslims, Christians have great interest in Jerusalem
Egypt-Israel, Politics, 7/11/2000
Following the talks between President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Presidential Political Advisor Osama al-Baz said Egypt exerts good offices for continuity of negotiations and narrowing the gap between the two parties without prejudice to what is considered inalienable rights.
"Barak told Mubarak that Israelis and Palestinians have reached a point that requires them to face the reality in full," Baz said.
"Barak did not come to Cairo to lay down terms or issue warnings, he did not negotiate with President Mubarak, but rather expounded his views, his expectations and his hopes," Al-Baz added.
"Egypt may have its own views, but it will not raise them because it is not a negotiating party," he said.
"Egypt can help without imposing its views on any party, but it is the two negotiating parties, the Palestinians and Israelis, who shoulder the full responsibility," Baz said.
"They are the ones, who know best and who can determine what is acceptable and unacceptable to them," Al-Baz expounded.
"Egypt exerts efforts to keep the peace process going, to stop it from faltering and to try to narrow the gap without infringing on anybody's rights," he added.
"The domestic situation in Israel is a purely internal Israeli matter," he said.
"At his talks with Mubarak, Barak expressed optimism and readiness, but did not define the issues he intends to address with flexibility at Camp David," he added.
"All in all, Barak said he will do his utmost to reach an agreement and that Israel's domestic politics would not obstruct his negotiations," Baz said.
Baz expressed hope the positions that were declared before the summit would not cripple the negotiators at negotiations.
On Jerusalem, he said all Arab states and Muslims and Christians have a great interest in the holy city.
"The Arab, Islamic and Christian rights to Jerusalem must be taken into consideration," he added.
"Arafat is not free to dispose of the Jerusalem issue as a whole as long as other aspects, other than the Palestinian, exist, given the fact that there is the Arab, Islamic and Christian side to it as well," he said.
"It is the compromise, rather than the concessions, that are part of the negotiating process, as every party has its own limits and red lines that it cannot go beyond," Baz said.
"The US did not inform Egypt at all of any plans to defer the examination of certain issues on the agenda, but talks focussed on reaching an agreement that would treat issues pertaining to the final phase," he added.
"Specific issues, such as borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, water, security and the relationship between the Palestinian state and its neighbors, are all tabled on the agenda of the negotiations, and therefore they must be all tackled," he said.
"Regardless of the Israel domestic problems, it would be grave to leave matters as they are as any delay could have serious repercussions on all," Baz said.
"September 13 is the deadline for the conclusion of the final-status talks and the declaration of the Palestinian state will not be raised during the negotiations, because it is a Palestinian issue," he added.
"Egypt has declared it will be the first to recognize the Palestinians independent state, because it believes in the inevitability of its establishment," he said.
"It is a Palestinian natural right to exercise their self-determination," he added.
"There is no commitment to achieve a Palestinian-Israeli agreement before the end of Clinton's presidential term," Baz said.
"There is a misconception that the negotiations are tilting in Israel's favor' and Egypt does not believe this, as Israel benefits from the peace process just like the Palestinians do," he added.
"It is in the interest of both to reach a just and comprehensive agreement, based on the principles of Madrid," he said.
"Asked whether progress on the peace track was lined to the issue of Israeli spy Azzam Baz said it would be a very grave mistake to link a personal issue to the fate of the regionís security and stability," he added.
On Egyptian-American contacts to activate the peace process, Baz said Egypt has presented its views and advice and hopes this contribute to narrowing the gap and realizing progress.
But again, Egypt will not negotiate for any party, but only expresses opinions and consults with the US because it hopes the US will facilitate the process.
Baz thanked Clinton for giving the issue of Middle East peace such due attention at such a delicate time in the US Presidential Campaign.
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