Mubarak Holds Talks with Assad
Presidents Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Syria's Bashar Al Assad held talks in Damascus Sunday on the latest escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
State radio said Mubarak flew in from Cairo and went straight into talks, after being greeted at the airport by Assad and vice presidents Abdel Halim Khaddam and Zuheir Masharka, said AFP.
Egypt and Syria insist on an Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands occupied in the 1967 Middle East war as the key to peace in the region, but they differ on the ongoing Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against 34 years of Israeli occupation.
Damascus supports a continuation of the Intifada, whereas Cairo has called for the Palestinians and Israel to consolidate a ceasefire to allow for a resumption of peace negotiations.
"Some parties expect the government of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon to follow the path of peace," Syria's government daily Tishrin said on Sunday, pointing to the differences.
"But this is impossible. All the signs are that this government wants to set the whole region ablaze, not just the Palestinian territories," it charged.
"The Arabs should act quickly to forge an effective solidarity in the face of the danger," Tishrin warned, as quoted by AFP.
AFP quoted a source at the Egyptian presidential office as confirming the meeting, saying that it comes "within the context of inter-Arab coordination in the face the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories."
The summit follows a decision by the Arab League to put off an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers, originally scheduled for Sunday in the Qatari capital, Doha.
The meeting has been indefinitely delayed, “to give a chance to US efforts to bring the crisis under control,” a diplomat involved in the meeting told The Associated Press.
However, the urgent meeting has been scaled down to consultative meeting of league foreign ministers to take place Monday in Doha on the sidelines of a gathering of the larger Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on Tuesday, reports said.
The emergency meeting was called in response to the recent escalation in Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which raised fears that Israel may be trying to destroy the Palestinian Authority led by President Yasser Arafat.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said in a statement published in Egyptian newspapers Saturday that the league would convene a consultative meeting on the sidelines of the OIC meeting. Consultative meetings do not have decision-making powers in league procedure.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said the meeting was not postponed because of disagreement, but for procedural mistakes.
He said Arab foreign minister meetings should be held at the league's headquarters in Cairo.
The Palestinian representative to the Arab League, Mohammed Sobeih, said the Palestinians had hoped an emergency meeting of the league would strongly endorse Arafat as the only legitimate leader of the Palestinian people.
"(The Arab ministers) should also defend the Palestinian Authority against any attempt to undermine its position and legitimacy," he told the AP.
During the week, Jordan called for a meeting of the 10 league ministers on the committee to support the Palestinians. However, Syria proposed a full meeting to allow all Arab governments to deal with the Israeli aggression and threats against the Palestinians.
Earlier this week, Mubarak sent Maher to Israel and the Palestinian territories in a bid to defuse tensions between the two sides, but Maher returned home describing his mission as a failure.
Egypt has played a pivotal role in international efforts to end the 14-month-old Palestinian Intifada, or uprising against 34 years of Israeli occupation -- Albawaba.com
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