After talks in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Shaikh on Tuesday between President Husni Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, an Egyptian spokesman said Egyptian mediation would not be necessary.

   

Reviving peace talks between Israel and Syria would not be the main purpose of a visit to Israel on Wednesday by Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Ghait and intelligence chief Umar Sulaiman, added presidential spokesman Magid Abd al-Fattah.

   

"Egypt has not offered to mediate between the two sides. The process does not require mediation because Israel knows fully what is required," he said at the Red Sea resort.

 

But Abd al-Fattah repeated the Egyptian version of the Syrian negotiating position. "Syria has said that it does not insist on the Rabin deposit and does not hang on to what was agreed in previous negotiations. Israel must follow suit," he said.

 

Diplomatic term

 

Egypt's Abu al-Ghait  is visiting 
Israel on Wednesday

The Rabin deposit is the diplomatic term for the Syrian claim, contested by many Israelis, that the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin promised full withdrawal from Syrian territory in any final peace agreement with Damascus.

   

Israeli officials contend that any offer by Rabin was conditional and hypothetical, designed to test what the Syrians were prepared to offer in return.

   

However, a Syrian official later denied any change to the country's position, emphasising that the Syrian position was fixed, building on what had been accomplished previously, including the deposit.

 

Message

 

Aljazeera reporter Amr al-Kaki said the Syrians conveyed a message to the Israelis through the Egyptians that "we are on the threshold of a new phase, and we should all work to maintain peace".

 

"The process does not require mediation because Israel knows fully what is required"

Magid Abd al-Fattah,
Egypt's presidential spokesman

Egypt is also pressuring Israel through the United States to start negotiations with Syria, reported the correspondent.

    

On Monday, Abd al-Fattah said Egypt was willing to play a role in reviving Israeli-Syrian talks by dialogue with the two sides.

   

A Syrian official source in Damascus said there was no link between al-Asad's visit and the mediation offer.

  

The source reiterated that Syria wanted peace with Israel, but his remarks appeared to be closer to Syria's long-standing position that the talks should be resumed from the point at which they broke off four years ago.