Sides Continue Taba Talks with Haggling on Hotel Price

Hard bargaining continued in Cairo Thursday over the purchase price of two Israeli-owned resorts in Taba.

The Egyptian minister of tourism, Fuad Sultan, expressed shock at the $70 million asking price by Eli Papushado, who is the majority shareholder of the Avia Sonesta Hotel, a 322-room luxury hotel on the beach overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba.

Sultan, who heads the Egyptian negotiating team, told reporters that this was more than three times the $18 million demanded for the recent sale of the 500-room Cairo Hilton Hotel, which finally changed hands for $14 million.

The haggling began Wednesday in the posh Heliopolis suburb of Cairo. The talks will probably continue Friday and are strictly business.

The more sensitive negotiations between Israeli and Egyptian political and military teams have been progressing slowly for more than two weeks Taba.

The discussions there are focused on access for Israeli tourists after Taba reverts to Egyptian sovereignty, as well as customs, currency regulations and other details.

The discussions have not been without rancor, and have almost foundered more than once, only to be rescued by a U.S. observer team that has been functioning as an unofficial mediator.

An angry “misunderstanding” early this week was resolved when both sides accepted an American-proposed Feb. 26 deadline for an agreement, to be followed promptly by Israel’s withdrawal from Taba.

The deadline also applies to the hotel purchase negotiations in Cairo.

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