Levy Visits Cairo in Effort to Ease Israel-egypt Tensions

Foreign Minister David Levy traveled to Cairo this week in an effort to defuse recent Israeli-Egyptian tensions.

Despite the recent critical statements emanating from Cairo about the pace of the peace process, Levy described his meetings Thursday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Amre Moussa as positive.

“Relations between Egypt and Israel are very important and peace between the two states can be a model for the rest of the parties,” Levy said at a joint news conference with Moussa, adding that the two sides had discussed ways to push the peace process forward.

Moussa, for his part, had an implied criticism of the Israeli stance in the ongoing negotiations with the Palestinians about implementing a turnover of most of Hebron to self-rule.

Peace “has to be balanced between the Israelis and the Palestinians, not to be imposed but to be agreed upon,” he said.

“Balance, agreement and fairness were the points stressed by the president,” Moussa said, describing the talks between Levy and Mubarak.

The talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been held up over disagreements on the security aspects of a long-delayed Israeli troop redeployment from most of Hebron.

Each side has blamed the other for stalling on the agreement.

Levy’s visit just days before the start of next week’s scheduled opening in Cairo of the third annual Middle East-North African regional economic summit.

The climate for the conference was soured in recent weeks, after Egypt and other Arab states mounted sharp attacks against Israeli policy.

To protest the antagonistic climate, National Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon announced this week that he would not attend the international meeting, which is expected to bring together representatives of some 85 countries.

In the final days before the summit opening, however, all sides appeared to be making efforts to ease tension.

Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Basiouny said he expected the Israeli delegation to meet with Egyptian government officials while in Cairo.

Other Egyptian leaders, meanwhile, condemned a recent call by the Cairo chamber of commerce to boycott the Israeli delegates at the conference.

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week called on leading Israeli industrialists to attend the conference.

Speaking at a seminar in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said economic ties were a significant component of regional peace.

The Israeli government delegation to the Cairo conference will include the ministers of foreign affairs, finance, trade, agriculture, transportation and communications.

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