Egyptian officials have told European politicians a peace conference that fails to achieve a breakthrough between Israelis and Palestinians will add to anger, frustration, and extremism in the Middle East. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is hosting a round of high-level talks in Alexandria in an apparent bid to reassert Egypt's diplomatic role in the region. Cache Seel has details from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.
President Mubarak met first with Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema and with Tony Blair, the Middle East peace envoy for the so-called Quartet, made up of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States. The discussion focused on the upcoming U.S.-sponsored peace conference, scheduled for November.
Egyptian presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad told reporters the conference must end with tangible progress.
"The president said it time and again that the road to Iraq, the road to win the battle against terrorism and fundamentalism, is going through the peace process and Jerusalem," he said.
Awad stressed the importance of the peace talks in calming volatility in the region.
"The failure of this conference cannot lead to a better situation in the Middle East. It is, on the contrary, going to further complicate an already complicated situation," added Awad.
As the first Arab country to sign a peace accord with Israel, Egypt has long been at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But recent failures to mediate a peace agreement between rival Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip and strong support for the Saudi-authored peace plan have pushed Egypt out of the limelight.
Karam Gabr, the chairman of the Egyptian media consortium Rose al-Youssef, disagrees with the idea that Egypt's role in the region is diminishing.
Gabr says Egypt's role is important because Cairo can maintain good relations with all sides in regional conflicts. He says this allows Egypt to be a successful regional mediator.
After his meeting with Mr. Blair and Foreign Minister D'Alema, President Mubarak met with King Abdullah II of Jordan to discuss regional developments. Jordan and Egypt are close allies, and this meeting was the leaders' fourth this year.
President Mubarak's flurry of meetings continues on Thursday when he hosts Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.