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Egypt Envoy to Israel Optimistic About Progress of Mideast Talks

Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Basiouny, said Thursday he expects that the parties to the Middle East peace talks will sign joint declarations of principles by the end of the year.

That, he said, will mark the start of “a new era of cooperation and development.”

Basiouny made the remarks in Eilat prior to giving an upbeat speech to members of the United Jewish Appeal Prime Minister’s Mission, a delegation of contributors who have given a minimum $100,000 each to the UJA campaign.

In his speech, Basiouny praised the progress that has been made in the 14 years since the peace treaty was signed between Egypt and Israel, saying it had “exceeded all optimistic expectations.”

He said the people of the Middle East have paid a steep price for war and for the absence of peace. It is impossible to overemphasize the “integration between peace and economic prosperity,” he said.

Peace and regional economic cooperation are vital for each Middle East nation’s viability, the ambassador said. Without them, “no country can remain competitive in the face of the huge economic power emerging in Europe.”

Basiouny said Egypt and Israel must be creative and imaginative and look at new joint ventures. “We have everything necessary to make this area a paradise,” he said.

The ambassador conceded that the Egyptian peace with Israel has been a cold one, but said that has changed since Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has come to power.

The two countries’ “political dialogue is excellent” and “fantastic,” he said.

“I trust you realize the depth of (our) commitment to peace,” he added. “Egypt is making every effort to achieve a comprehensive peace.”

“People need to see that peace leads to economic development and jobs, and is not just the absence of war,” said Jack Kemp, former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, who was a “guest scholar” on the mission.

“You are right,” the ambassador responded.

After the speech, the members of the mission, whose theme revolves around prospects for peace, crossed the Egyptian border into Taba, the resort area which Israel returned to Egypt after years of negotiations. There, they met with Egyptian business leaders.

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