Egyptian Reports Progress After Meeting with Baker

The stalled Middle East peace process may have gained momentum, Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid indicated here Tuesday.

“We see already a lot has been achieved during what has been the first phase,” he told reporters following a 75-minute meeting with Secretary of State James Baker at the State Department.

“We are now in the second phase, which is the preparation for the dialogue in Cairo between the Israelis and Palestinians, and before that, the tripartite meeting of the three foreign ministers in Washington,” Meguid said.

“We are certainly very much keen on this meeting,” Meguid said.

He was referring to a meeting that Baker, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens and he are to attend in Washington, as specified in Baker’s plan for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

The dialogue is expected to lay the groundwork for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as proposed by Israel last spring.

There was speculation here, meanwhile, that there would be a meeting between Meguid and Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who is to meet here with administration officials on Wednesday and Thursday.

Rabin had been visiting Los Angeles since Sunday. He canceled an appearance there Tuesday afternoon to fly to Washington ahead of schedule.

He was quoted as saying he would be happy to meet with Meguid if the Egyptian minister thought it would be useful. But the Israeli Embassy here said no meeting had yet been planned.

When Meguid was asked about a meeting with Rabin, he, too, replied, “We haven’t had that planned.”

The Egyptian official described his talk with Baker as “interesting” and “useful.” He said he would be meeting with the secretary of state several more times this week.

(JTA correspondent Tom Tugend in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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