Maher warns Israel against banning Arafat from attending Arab Summit
Egypt-Israel, Politics, 1/22/2002
"Banning Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat from attending the Arab summit will create a very critical situation", Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher warned.
In a dialogue with Egyptian intellectuals at the Cairo International Book Fair late Monday, Maher hoped Arafat would not be prevented from taking part in the summit, due in Beirut on March 27-28.
The top diplomat asserted that Egypt is holding intensive contacts in that respect.
Maher urged Israel to adapt more rational policies,hoping that it would be convinced to take more reasonable stances.
Asked about what would happen if Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon recklessly assassinates Arafat, Maher said he does not believe the Israelis would "dare" endanger the life of Arafat.
"Arafat is the democratically-elected President of the Palestinian people and their leader and even the opposition does not deny his leadership," he stressed.
Maher underlined that Arafat is the sole person who could lead his people to a just peace and a unified Palestinian stance.
"Without Arafat, chaos will prevail and Israel will be the first to suffer his absence," said the foreign minister.
"I don't believe they will be so ignorant and stupid that they would endanger the life of Arafat," he added.
Asked about the arms ship, Maher said the issue raises many questions and doubts including the location of seizure and why Israel did not wait for the ship to reach its destination.
"The timing of the seizure is also quite weird as coincided with the return of US Mideast peace envoy Anthony Zinni to the region," he added.
On how he sees Sharon after meeting him in Israel, Maher said his impression was that Sharon only speaks with and listens to himself.
"During the meeting, Sharon reiterated the same stances he used to take such as zero-tolerance over Israeli security," said Maher.
"The sole concession he made, and I did not request it, was promising he would not try to kill Arafat," Maher added.
"Israeli President Moshe Katsav's words show he has some understanding of the situation and wants to help but he has no actual political role," Maher said.
He described Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres as a romantic person who has peace ideas and theoretical visions.
Maher added that Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer requested to meet with him and showed good will that does not go in harmony with his practices.
"Though Egypt leads efforts for a Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction, it is capable of defending itself against any enemy," stressed the foreign minister.
Asked about the US stance over combatting terrorism, Maher reiterated his Egypt's stance calling for a universal combat of the phenomenon via President Hosni Mubarak's ten-year initiative.
"This stance has been adopted and reiterated by Egypt ahead of the September 11 attacks," said Maher.
He added that the US has joined Egypt in the fight against terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Egypt has always been differentiating between terrorism and liberation movements, he said, stressing that Egypt is not satellite to any country.
"Egypt has repeatedly said that it would not participate in any military action and rejected any deviation from this stand," he added.
Asked about the US double-standard policy, Maher said Egypt has been seeking to this attitude via its distinguished ties with the US.
On the Jewish lobby in the US and weakness of the Arab one, Maher said there are six million Muslims and many Arabs in the US who can play a political role but the Arabs in America are divided and therefore have no influence.
"The US biased stance toward Israel is largely attributed to historical reasons and the weakness of the Arab voices in America," Maher said.
"The Arabs do not hate Americans but rather the constantly biased American stances and policies," he added.
Maher reiterated the Egyptian stance over the issue of Iraq demanding an end to sanctions as fast as possible.
He stressed, however, that the relevant international resolutions should be implemented.
He hoped Iraq would restore its position among Arabs. Asked about Egyptian prisoners of war in Israel, Maher said the file has not been closed as the issue was raised more than once.
Maher said that Islamic and Christian holy sites in Al-Quds can never be conceded.
"Israel pledged to launch an investigation but nothing came up," said the foreign minister.
He underlined that any non-Arab sovereignty over the holy city is unacceptable.
On the Arab common market, Maher said President Mubarak has been calling for the establishment of the market, adding that the issue is among Egypt's top priorities.
The top diplomat made it clear that the issue will come high on the agenda of the Beirut Arab summit.
Asked about safeguarding Egypt's water interest in view of Israel's activities in Africa, Maher termed Egyptian ties with Ethiopia as very good, highlighting constant cooperation and meetings between both countries.
On the Sudanese issue, Maher hoped that all Sudanese will reach understandings for a unified and strong Sudan.
He described Sharon's policies as reckless, stressing that Sharon's policies will not bring in peace but rather open the gates of hell on him.
The foreign minister asserted that the Israeli attitude is a typical colonial one but it would not last, noting that all colonies, except Palestine, have gained independence.
Maher sent a new message to the Israeli people urging them to realise that the current situation harms everybody.
He called on all world powers to support a just peace and stability and to maintain Palestinians' rights to a sovereign state with Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital.
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