JERUSALEM (Apr. 22)
Egyptian presidential adviser Osama el-Baz left meetings with Israeli leaders Thursday saying he was more hopeful than before that progress could be achieved in the Middle East peace talks.
The meetings with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres came a day after the Arab parties to the talks announced their decision to return to the negotiating table for a ninth round with Israel.
El-Baz, a top adviser to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said he believed there was hope for concrete and meaningful progress in the coming weeks.
“We all have more confidence and more hope in the process,” he said.
El-Baz made the comments after delivering what he said was a message from Mubarak to Rabin on the peace process, and receiving a message from Rabin to bring back to Cairo. He declined to spell out what the messages were.
Peres called the meeting “a good opportunity to map the possibilities” for progress in the negotiations and to “smooth” the way.
For his part, Rabin greeted the Arabs’ decision to resume talks by saying Israel would do all it could to promote peace, but would not undermine the safety of its citizens.
In this vein, he said his government had “no plans to resort to further deportations,” in evident deference to pressure from the U.S. brokers to the peace process.
But he stopped short of ruling deportations out in the future. Indeed, he defended the legality of the December expulsion of 415 Moslem extremists, which he said had dealt a “major blow” to the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement.
The prime minister also called on the Palestinians to make a “good-faith effort to maintain calm and avoid violence against Israel.”