Egyptian FM in Israel on Rescue Mission
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher arrived in Israel Thursday to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Thursday as the clock ticked away for the Palestinian Authority to arrest Islamic militants or run the risk of more Israeli air strikes, Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman told AFP.
Maher is due to meet Sharon in the afternoon at the prime minister's Jerusalem office before holding talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, spokesman Noam Katz told AFP.
It will be Maher's first visit to Israel and was decided Wednesday evening during a secret mission to Cairo by an Israeli envoy, public radio said earlier.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak decided to dispatch Maher to Israel to contribute to efforts aimed at securing a Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire to prevent any military escalation that could threaten regional stability, the Israeli public radio said.
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.
But relations with Israel have been cool, and Cairo recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv in November 2000 in protest at the "excessive use of force" by the Israeli army in the Palestinian territories.
According to Israeli radio, Maher will also meet Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah later Thursday, but there was no immediate Palestinian confirmation of this report.
The Tel Aviv-based Haaretz confirmed that Maher is meeting Arafat. Maher's first to Israel as foreign minister, coincides with a separate Thursday meeting between Arafat and US special Mideast envoy Anthony Zinni.
The Egyptian foreign minister is to warn Israel against harming Arafat or his position as leader of the Authority, said Haaretz.
According to the Cairo-based Arabic daily, Al Ahram, maher was due to meet back home with visiting EU peace envoy Miguel Moratinos who is expected in Cairo Thursday for talks on the detrioting situation in the region – Albawaba.com
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