Israeli Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben Ami was dispatched to Egypt on Monday to brief President Hosni Mubarak on the Stockholm track of peace talks with the Palestinians, officials said. In the meanwhile, the US voiced worry that the Lebanon front is distracting Israel from peace talks with the Palestinians.
"The purpose is to update President Mubarak and to keep the peace process alive," one official told AFP.
Ben Ami, who is leading the Israeli delegation for the recently launched peace talks in Sweden, is likely to meet Mubarak on Tuesday, another official said, but gave no further details.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak recalled Ben Ami and negotiator Gilad Sher from Stockholm on Monday because of the wave of deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past week.
However, media reports here said the talks were expected to resume this week.
Israel and the Palestinians have been holding back-door talks in the Swedish capital in a bid to forge a framework for a final peace deal after decades of conflict.
The existence of the parallel channel was revealed May 14, the day after the two sides missed a second deadline for an outline agreement, and the current round started on Thursday.
The Palestinian team in Stockholm includes legislative council speaker Ahmed Qorei and cabinet member Hassan Asfur -- key players in the secret negotiations in Oslo which led to the first Israeli-Palestinian peace accord in 1993.
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Sunday said the violence racking the Palestinian territories had not stymied progress in the peace talks.
"The violence certainly hurts the overall environment but we are making progress on the Palestinian track," she told the ABC television network, adding "there are still gaps but there is work going on."
US WORRIED LEBANON DISTRACTING BARAK FROM TALKS WITH PA
Top US officials are concerned that the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon and the ensuing problems in the North will eclipse peace negotiations with the Palestinians, reported the Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
The American position, which was put to Prime Minister Ehud Barak recently both by US Ambassador Martin Indyk and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, is that a breakthrough on the Palestinian track will dampen resistance to Israel from within the Palestinian camps in Lebanon.
Barak does not see any linkage between the situation in Lebanon and the talks with the Palestinians, said the Israeli daily.
According to one US official, the Americans foresee Barak becoming preoccupied with the military aspects of the Lebanon withdrawal and not paying sufficient attention to the Palestinian track. Barak's spokesman Gadi Baltiansky admitted that the prime minister's attention is primarily focused "at this moment" on Lebanon.
The Americans are not the only ones to see a linkage between the two spheres of activity, said the paper, adding some senior officials have voiced their concern that “Syria and Iran will encourage Palestinian rejectionist groups within Lebanon to fight Israel in an attempt to pull Barak into attacking the refugee camps.” – (Several Sources)
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