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Israel Encouraged by Egypt Summit


Following his summit with Egyptian Prime Minister Hosni Mubarak, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he plans to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the near future.

Israeli newspapers on Monday report that senior Israeli officials are encouraged by what they describe as a "warm and friendly" atmosphere coming out of the meeting between Mr. Olmert and Mr. Mubarak. The two men held private talks for an hour and a half, Sunday, in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

At a news conference following the talks, Prime Minister Olmert said he plans to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the near future. to try to restart talks based on the so-called Mideast "road-map" peace plan.

The Israeli leader says, although he plans to meet with President Abbas, he also expects the Palestinians to fulfill their obligations under the plan, which calls for Palestinians to disarm militants and for Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank.

For his part, Hosni Mubarak says he plans to be a participant in the peace process.

The Egyptian leader says everyone's objective should be to try and bring all parties to the negotiating table; but, if that fails then the parties will have to pursue other measures.

Mr. Mubarak did not comment directly on Ehud Olmert's plans to disengage from much of the West Bank. He plans to demarcate Israel's border along the lines of the controversial separation barrier that largely follows Israel's West Bank border, but also cuts into parts of the West Bank. Palestinians have condemned the plan calling it an illegal land grab.

Israeli commentators say Ehud Olmert should be encouraged that Hosni Mubarak did not condemn his disengagement plan, but it remains unclear what if anything will come out of a meeting between Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen. Akiva Aldar, a columnist with the leading Israeli daily Ha'aretz says Israeli officials did not give up anything by agreeing to meet with President Abbas.

"They know that the maximum concessions they are willing to make are very far away from the Palestinian expectations and requirements," said Aldar.

At a news conference following the talks, President Mubarak refused to be drawn into the worsening dispute between President Abbas's Fatah Party and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that now governs the Palestinian territories. The two groups have so far failed to agree on whether or not to hold a national referendum among Palestinians on a plan that calls for a Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel, based on borders that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

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