Amid global condemnation of Israel’s deadly raid against the Gaza-bound flotilla last week, US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Egypt to hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Accompanied by senior White House officials and National Security staff, Biden held a 90-minute dialogue with Mubarak Monday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. A US embassy spokesperson told AFP that the two discussed “a full range of bilateral and regional issues.”
During the meeting, the two discussed Israeli-Palestinian indirect negotiations, the consequences of Israel’s flotilla raid and ways to lift the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. They also discussed Iran’s nuclear program, the formation of a new government in Iraq and developments in Sudan, Yemen and Somalia.
Monday’s talks come after Biden defended “Israel’s right to intercept the ships” asserting it had “an absolute right to deal with its security interests.”
Egypt has harshly criticized Israel’s raid. On Sunday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Israel should be “ashamed of itself” for the raid, but maintained that proximity talks were not compromised. “Israel should be ashamed of itself for attacking the Turkish ship that was carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip,” Abul Gheit said. “If anyone speaks of ending these contacts, he is preventing the Palestinians from achieving their aspirations through political action.”
Following Monday's meeting, Biden said that the US is seeking “new ways” to deal with Israel’s Gaza blockade. “We are consulting closely with Egypt, as well as our other partners, on new ways to address the humanitarian, economic, security and political aspects of the situation in Gaza,” he added.
Scheduled to visit Egypt in March, Biden cancelled his visit after Mubarak traveled to Germany for gall bladder surgery. He arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh Sunday for the first leg of his African tour that will take the Vice President to Kenya before arriving in South Africa to attend Friday’s opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup.