Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other participants in the
Middle East Quartet are due to meet in Egypt's resort town of Sharm
el-Sheikh Sunday, to discuss the progress in peace talks between Israel
and the Palestinians. The group will hear a progress report from
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and is expected to affirm support
for continuing the negotiations despite upcoming government changes in
Israel and the U.S. Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Cairo.
Middle East Quartet, which include United States, the U.N., the EU and
Russia, are set to meet Sunday in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula resort
town of Sharm el-Sheikh, amid a wait-and-see attitude following the
recent U.S. presidential election and upcoming Israeli elections, early
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on her 19th
visit to the Middle East, and will meet with Russian Foreign Minister
Serguei Lavrov, Saturday night, before a late dinner meeting with
Quartet host, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.
is "concentrating on narrowing the distance to peace," between Israel
and the Palestinians, while admitting frankly that she doesn't expect a
major breakthrough in the waning weeks of the Bush administration.
in the Sinai Peninsula has been extremely tight in the leadup to the
meeting, with Al-Arabiya TV reporting that Egyptian police seized a ton
of TNT, Friday, although it was believed that the explosives were
headed for the Gaza Strip.
French Foreign Minister Bernard
Kouchner, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, and the Quartet's special
envoy Tony Blair will also participate in the weekend get-together.
Sharm el-Sheikh gathering comes almost a year after a peace conference
in Annapolis, Maryland reignited peace negotiations, which had been
stalled for the first seven years of the Bush administration.
Rice has called the Annapolis conference "vital and vibrant" and urged
that its work continue, despite the lack of progress over the thorny
issues of Palestinian refugees, the ultimate status of Jerusalem, and
the borders of a yet-to-be Palestinian state.
The goal of the Quartet has been to reach a peace deal that would set up an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Egyptian Foreign Minister, Esmet Abd al-Meguid says that Egypt has long
worked to find a solution to the Palestinian problem and meetings such
as this one are a step in the right direction, even if no immediate
results are to be expected.
"I consider that this is an attempt
to reach a solution to the problem, and by having a meeting like that
happening in Sharm el-Sheikh, we have to help in achieving results," he
said. "If there is no success, than this should take place later on. I
think it is needed because any attempt to reach a solution to help in
solving a problem is something we should support ... this is my belief."
al-Meguid thinks that both the United States and Israel need to make a
concerted effort to find a solution to the Palestinian problem, and
that the Palestinians should not always be the ones that are pressured
to make concessions:
"According to what we try in Egypt to find
a solution to a problem, this should be encouraged, but also the other
side, the Israelis must be helpful in that," he said. "I am not aware
of what they are doing, but certainly there is a responsibility on the
United States to support and to find a solution to the problem, this is
my opinion according to what I was dealing with many years ago."
criticizing. I'm trying to find a solution. this is something that
should be helpful, it should be reaching a solution to a problem…the
Palestinians have problems, I think, they are entitled to reach a
solution for them, and not to put pressure on them," he added.
press is putting extremely low expectations on the Quartet meeting,
with the daily Asharqalawsat running a caricature of two empty chairs,
representing the United States and Israe,l and indicating that both
countries will soon have new leaders.
In Sharm el-Sheikh, few
are expecting any dramatic developments in the peace process, but none
of the participants are overtly criticizing the talks, and their mere
presence appears to be a step in the right direction.