Egypt and Israel to Meet Soon in Effort to Save Peace Process

Israeli President Ezer Weizman and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are expected to meet soon in an effort to salvage the stalled Middle East peace process.

Israel Radio reported Thursday that the talks would take place within the framework of a new initiative launched by Egypt.

Mubarak met this week with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Arafat was prompted to fly to Cairo after what a spokesman said was the failure of U.S. envoy Dennis Ross to get Israeli-Palestinian negotiations back on track.

Officials at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem welcomed the initiative, and said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mubarak spoke by telephone Thursday to discuss it.

Unofficially, however, Israel Radio reported that sources in Jerusalem were disturbed by what they considered a counterproductive role Egypt has been playing in the process.

They pointed to Egypt’s role in encouraging the Palestinians to harden their stance, and in fueling international and Arab public opinion against Israel.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa confirmed that there were contacts with Israel, but said no meeting between Mubarak and Weizman was expected to take place in the coming days.

On Saturday the Egyptian leader is due to hold talks with King Hussein in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba.

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been stalled since March, when Israel broke ground for a new Jewish neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem.

In response, the Palestinians cut off security cooperation, whose resumption Israel has demanded as a condition to renew political negotiations.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry announced Thursday that it had approved the construction of some 3,000 housing units in the Arab neighborhood of Tsur Baher in Jerusalem, adjacent to the Armon Hanatziv Jewish neighborhood.

Currently, there are some 1,000 housing units in Tsur Baher.

As a gesture to the Palestinians following the groundbreaking at Har Homa, Netanyahu announced that he would also provide for more construction for Arabs in eastern Jerusalem.

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