Egypt Says Time for \'Israel to Reconsider\' Approach to Peace

Published December 20th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The moment has come "for Israel to reconsider" its approach to the peace negotiations, Egypt's foreign minister said Wednesday after President Hosni Mubarak met in Cairo with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. 

"The moment is so crucial especially in the light of what happened, what took place in the last three months," Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said after Mubarak and Arafat discussed the ongoing violence and new peace efforts. 

"It is the moment for Israel to reconsider," Moussa told AFP at the presidential palace in Cairo. 

"I do not know whether they feel that or not, we will know that from what we are going to hear from Washington, whether there is something new or exactly the same as we were before," he added. 

"We understand so far there is nothing new from Washington," Moussa added. 

Mubarak and Arafat, who has appeared tired the last few days, discussed how to relaunch the peace process with Israel as talks got under way in the United States and violence continued in the Palestinian territories. 

The two leaders had one-on-one talks at the president's Ittihadiya palace in northern Cairo before being joined by aides and advisers. 

Mubarak also met later Wednesday with Yossi Sarid, chief of the left-wing Israeli Meretz party and an envoy of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. 

Moussa said he hoped the message Sarid was bringing from Barak would signal new intentions for peace. 

In the United States Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began separate meetings with US officials expected to go on until Friday, in the first such talks since the failure of the Camp David summit in July. 

Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip two Palestinian firemen were reported shot dead by Israeli troops, bringing the total death toll to 346 since a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation began on September 28. 

US President Bill Clinton and Barak are anxious to stitch up an elusive peace deal before the former leaves office on January 20 and the latter faces prime ministerial elections on February 6. 

A tired-looking Arafat arrived here Tuesday from Gaza where his bodyguards had to help him to his car during a rain-soaked funeral procession in Gaza for General Abdel Mohti al-Sabaawi. 

"His health is OK, very good," Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian minister for planning and international cooperation who accompanied Arafat here, told AFP. 

He said Arafat, 71, had "suffered a psychological blow because General Sabaawi was like a son to him." 

Sabaawi, 55, was blown up in a police station in Gaza City on Monday while trying to defuse an unexploded Israeli shell. 

Arafat holds regular meetings with Mubarak, who plays a key role as intermediary in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process -- CAIRO (AFP) 



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