Maher, al Baz to meet Arafat on Sunday; Egypt sets conditions for Mideast conference
An Egyptian diplomat said Saturday the Egyptian foreign minister and President Hosni Mubarak's senior adviser would meet Yasser Arafat in Ramallah on Sunday.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and Osama el-Baz, Mubarak's political adviser, will be the first Arab officials to meet the Palestinian leader since Israel ended its siege of his compound on Thursday.
The Egyptian officials will be flown aboard a Jordanian helicopter to the West Bank town of Ramallah for a two-hour meeting with Arafat, the diplomat told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Maher spelled out two conditions for Cairo to back the convening of a new Middle East peace conference.
An Israeli pullout from the lands seized during last month's West Bank offensive should be the "first step" toward holding the conference, and the planned meeting should be based on UN resolutions and the principle of "land for peace," Maher told reporters.
"The Egyptian position stresses that the first step before discussing any meeting or conference has to be the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the Palestinian territories occupied in the past weeks," the minister asserted.
Israel should also "commit itself not to return to these territories under any pretext," he added. "After this, when the conference convenes, its target will naturally be to reach a comprehensive settlement based on the agreed international principles," said Maher.
The basis underlying the new conference should be "UN security council resolutions ... the (1991) Madrid peace conference, the principle of land for peace ... and the Saudi initiative," which offers Israel normal ties with the Arabs if it pulls out from the lands occupied in 1967.
In addition to the "quartet" formed by the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations, Maher said Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinians, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel should attend the conference.
"Sharon seeks neither a solution nor political moves ... he thinks he can achieve his goals by force ... he is not even convinced of the existence of the Palestinian people," charged Maher. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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