Mubarak discusses with Ben Eliezer best solutions for halting violence
Egypt-Israel, Politics, 1/31/2002
Egyptian President Mubarak yesterday received in Sharm El-Sheikh Benjamin Ben Eliezer, the Israeli Defence Minister and the Leader of the Israeli Labor Party and his accompanying delegation.
The meeting came in the framework of Egypt's efforts and contacts for achieving peace and stability in the Middle East, putting an end to the current deterioration in the occupied Palestinian territories and pursuing negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Earlier, Ben Eliezer had arrived in Sharm El-Sheikh yesterday and was welcomed at the airport by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi the Minister of Defence and Military Production.
President Mubarak Wednesday underlined the necessity of making efforts to keep the peace process alive, saying that peace was for the good of all countries in the Middle East, including Palestinians and Israelis.
In remarks to a media delegation accompanying Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, the Egyptian Leader said that in the presence of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, a peace agreement could be reached.
"I have said more than once that the Palestinian leadership cannot be changed because this may be a regrettable act," he added in his remarks aired on Egyptian TV late Wednesday.
He urged resumption of negotiations. "We all are in need of peace. We all need to avoid fighting and bloodshed."
On his meeting earlier in the day with the Israeli Defense Minister, Mubarak said they had exchanged views on de-escalating the situation and restarting negotiations.
"Even if there are new ideas, I could not go public with them," he said when asked about specific proposals for kick starting the peace process.
Asked if he is acting as a mediator between Palestinians and Israelis, Mubarak said: "I am not a mediator. I am endeavouring for peace with the two sides in pursuit of stability for the region."
He urged Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to "show responsibility" so that the situation would be calmed.
On a ship Israel said it had intercepted with a cache of arms bound for the Palestinian self-rule areas, Mubarak addressed the Israeli delegation: "You took the vessel from the Red Sea to Eliat. So why do you involve the Suez Canal? Any ship sailing along the Suez Canal declares its shipment before allowed to sail. So, if we had known that the ship had weapons aboard we would nave stopped and barred it from passage."
Mubarak denied that US president George W. Bush had criticised Egypt over the ship Israel alleged to have been carrying arms for the Palestinian areas.
Asked whether he received specific promises from Ben Eliezer, Mubarak said: "No, we agreed to continue talks, exchange viewpoints and work with both parties."
Mubarak added that he had asked Ben Eleizer to convey a message to Sharon on working for peace. He said: "Whenever determination exists, the road to peace becomes clear."
On Arafat's confinement to Ramallah, Mubarak said that the issue was addressed but it was the decision of the Israeli government under Sharon.
"Ben Eliezer has come here on an official visit and I met him for the first time. I am keen to convey a peace message and extend a helping hand for the peace process," he said.
''Peace is not in the interest of the Israelis alone, but rather it is important for all of us and if it suffers a setback, it will be a disaster on all of us including you" , said Mubarak, addressing the Israeli delegation.
Asked whether he is optimistic, Mubarak answered in the affirmative. He added: "If I were pessimistic, I would not do anything. But I am optimistic by nature."
President Mubarak said US President George Bush in the speech he gave on the state of the union reiterated his commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The President said we spoke about the Syrian issue which needs some time.
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