Egyptian, Syrian Leaders Agree Clashes Undermine Peace Process
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt agreed Sunday that the Palestinian-Israeli clashes are undermining an already "precarious" peace process, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said.
"There is complete agreement as to the seriousness of the situation and that the negative repercussions would adversely affect the peace process, which is itself in a very precarious state," Moussa said after the summit.
Moussa was speaking to reporters after four hours of talks between Mubarak and Assad, who arrived in Egypt on his first foreign trip since he succeeded his late father Hafez al-Assad as president in July.
Topping the agenda was "the situation in Jerusalem and the very negative atmosphere created and caused by the visit" to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Thursday by Israel's right-wing Likud leader Ariel Sharon, Moussa said.
It was Sharon's visit that sparked four days of clashes, which has claimed the lives of more than 30 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others.
The Arab leaders also discussed the two remaining tracks of the peace process with Israel, the Palestinian and Syrian ones, Moussa added.
While Palestinian-Israeli talks have made no headway since the Camp David summit failed in July, mainly over the future status of Jerusalem, Syria's peace talks with Israel have been suspended since January.
The sticking point is the future of the strategic Golan Heights, which overlook the Sea of Galilee and northeastern Israel and which were captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
Syria demands that Israel return all the captured land, back to the position in force in June 1967 before its seizure, which would give Damascus access to the fresh water Sea of Galilee.
Israel has expressed willingness to return the Golan, but wants to withdraw only to a 1923 border, which would give it the Sea of Galilee in its entirety.
Assad and Mubarak also discussed inter-Arab ties, including relations with Iraq, which has enjoyed growing support from Syria, Egypt and other Arab countries for an end to 10 years of international sanctions, Mussa added.
Mussa said that Assad and Mubarak would discuss Iraq again on Monday when they hold another round of talks before Assad leaves Egypt.
Sanctions were imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in August 1990. Syria and Egypt both joined the US-led force to end the occupation in January 1991.
Assad will travel "soon" to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and France, according to Turki Sakr, the managing editor of the Syrian government daily Al-Baath who is travelling with the Syrian leader.
Assad will also visit Lebanon, where Syrian influence is paramount, as soon a new government is formed in Beirut, Sakr said.
Neither Assad nor Mubarak made a statement after their meeting, which later included their ministers and aides.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)