Egypt warned the United States on Monday that moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would have "negative effects" on the peace process.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said the question of moving US diplomats to Jerusalem was an "extremely thorny issue" and urged the US to remain "unbiased" in the Middle East peace process.
"Any measures of that kind would have negative effects," Moussa said.
US President Bill Clinton said in an interview broadcast on Israeli television Friday, he had always wanted to move the embassy and would decide whether or not to go ahead with the move by the end of the year.
"Jerusalem is still subject to negotiations and the negotiations should not be disturbed," Moussa told reporters after a meeting with US envoy Edward Walker in Egypt's Mediterranean town of Borg el-Arab.
"The continuation of the peace process and an unbiased US role ... requires no steps to be taken which might negatively affect the process, including what are known as 'unilateral actions,'" Moussa said.
Walker, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, would not comment on the matter, but said he was prepared to answer any questions Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may ask him on the matter.
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would imply recognition of Israel's claim to the city as its capital, a position that has never been accepted by the international community.
Walker, who is on the first leg of an extensive tour of the Arab world, said the US did not yet have any new proposals on Jerusalem to present to the Israelis and Palestinians.
"At this point we're just starting to think about the various ways we can deal with this problem," he said before talks with Mubarak.
Walker predicted that a final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would be reached before September 13, the date when the Palestinians have promised to announce statehood.
"We are going to have an agreement on the whole process before then," he said when asked what would happen if a Palestinian state is declared.
"That's the major objective. That's what we want to do. That's what we're engaged in doing, so that's where our focus is," he told reporters on the first leg of an extensive tour of the Arab world.
But when asked by an Egyptian reporter: "At this stage do you think there is a 50-50 chance that a deal will be sealed?" he replied: "I'll leave it up to Las Vegas to do the odds making. I don't do that."
"It's very useful that everyone has a chance to think through what went on at Camp David, what was accomplished, and those few things that haven't been accomplished yet and how to approach them," he said -- BORG EL-ARAB, Egypt (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )