UN Chief Meets with Egyptian President to Prepare for High-Stakes Summit
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh Sunday to work out arrangements for a make-or-break summit to stop two weeks of Palestinian-Israeli violence.
The summit is expected to start Monday and include Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, US President Bill Clinton and Jordan's King Abdullah II.
Annan told reporters that the summit was of crucial importance, considering the global repercussion of the violence.
"We have been seeing demonstrations outside this region, in Indonesia, even in the United States. It is going to affect global growth."
Annan noted the sudden surge in oil prices, which many attribute to concern over escalating tension in the Middle East.
The situation "is going to affect all countries, rich and poor. This is an urgent and major crisis for all of us," Annan said.
"That is why I as Secretary General of the United Nations have devoted so much time to working with President Mubarak and President Clinton to get this conference going."
More than 100 people, mostly Palestinians, have been killed since bloody clashes erupted September 28 between Israeli forces and protesters in the Palestinian territories, although the region was relatively calm on Sunday.
Annan, on a stop to Jerusalem before going to Egypt, said he had called on both Israel and the Palestinians to observe a ceasefire ahead of the summit.
But all sides cautioned against over-optimism, realizing that negotiations at the summit will be strenuous.
"Ending the violence and getting people of the Middle East back to dialogue will be hard after what has happened," Clinton said Saturday in his weekly radio address.
"But no matter how difficult that task may be, no matter how terrible the images of this week's violence, the effort must continue with America's strong support," he said.
Clinton earlier announced that the summit would begin Monday, although Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, meeting Saturday with Annan, said talks could begin as soon as Sunday evening.
Also attending the summit will be Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign and security policy chief, a European source said at an EU summit in France.
Solana was invited to Sharm el-Sheikh by Mubarak, the source said.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, whose country is a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process, is not scheduled to attend, officials in Moscow said -- SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt -- (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)