Egypt lends support to Annapolis conference
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday won Egyptian support in holding a Mideast peace conference for promoting Israeli - Palestinian settlement. The conference is to be held in November or December.
Egypt as well as other key Arab allies have voiced skepticism over the conference in past weeks, fearing it would be merely symbolic. On Monday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit spoke of postponing it.
But Aboul Gheit said his meeting with Rice on Tuesday "gives us a lot of trust and confidence" about U.S. intentions for the conference, though he cautioned that preparations to crystallize the agenda could take more time. Rice "has helped us to understand the American objective. She shed a great deal of light on the current American efforts," he told reporters, according to AFP. "We feel encouraged regarding what we heard from Secretary Rice and promised her that we would help and we would help the parties as well in order to achieve the objective which is launching the permanent status negotiations that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state on both the Palestinian territories," he said.
Rice and Aboul Gheit said the timing of the conference depended on progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks on reaching an agreement to be sealed at the gathering, expected to be in Annapolis, Md.
"We will continue to work and help them to create this document and we will then be in a position I think fairly soon to talk about when this meeting ought to take place," Rice stated.
Still, Aboul Gheit said the conference should be put off if a strong deal is not reached. "We have to go into the meeting ready to launch negotiations," he said. "It can be done if we have enough determination on the part of the (Bush) administration."