Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab countries to sign peace treaties with Israel, have not had ambassadors in Israel since early in the Palestinian uprising which broke out in 2000.

   

Israel and the United States have been pressing Cairo and Amman to send them back as a gesture of goodwill.

   

The breakthrough came on Tuesday at a Middle East summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Shaikh after Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made separate commitments to stop violence.

   

The summit was hosted by Egyptian President Husni Mubarak and attended by King Abd Allah of Jordan.

 

Return confirmed

 

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Ghait said: "The Jordanians and the Egyptians have decided to again allow their ambassadors to return to Israel."

   

Abbas wants Sharon to meet his
obligations to the road map plan

Asked when an Egyptian ambassador would go, he said: "I cannot claim that he is returning tomorrow but he will be returning. That is a decision."

   

Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani al-Mulki, asked to confirm that his ambassador would be returning, said: "Yes definitely."

 

Earlier, speaking to Aljazeera from the West Bank town of Ram Allah, spokesman for the Palestinian president's office Nabil Abu Rudaina discussed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's speech in Europe praising Mahmud Abbas wherein she described him as president, not chairman of the Palestinian Authority.

 

He said: "What we are concerned with is how the words of the US administration translates into action, particularly its commitment to implement the road map plan and the

establishment of an independent Palestinian state."

 

Palestinian expectations

 

Rudaina said, "There is no doubt that US-Palestinian relations were stymied in recent years."

 

But "today is the beginning of a relationship that we hope will develop in the right path and serve the interests of all."

 

"Today is the beginning of a relationship that we hope is will develop in the right path and serve the interests of all"

Nabil Abu Rudaina,
Palestinian president's office spokesman

Commenting on the Sharm al-Shaikh summit, he said, "The signals from the US administration are encouraging.

 

"Palestinians hope that the summit will make progress in implementing the road map plan, establishing a Palestinian state, ensuring a return to unconditional negotiations, freeing of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, and facilitating an urgent mutual ceasefire."

 

Reflecting on the appointment of a US security coordinator for the Middle East, he said, "It seems the US administration has taken steps for a gradual return to the peace process.

 

"The first step of the US administration was the visit by a high-ranking US diplomat, which reflects its desire to participate in the peace process. And US efforts will

continue, whether in the form of financial assistance to the Palestinians or the appointment of a security coordinator.

 

Israeli viewpoint

 

From Jerusalem, Meir Cohen, an Israeli political analyst, gave his assessment of the latest developments to Aljazeera. He said, "The Sharm al-Shaikh summit can be considered a rebuilding of confidence and breathing of new life to relations between Israel and the Palestinians after years of bloody violence."

 

Israeli forces will pull out of key
West Bank cities under a deal

"Although the US did not participate in the conference, its influence could be felt.
The summit was a follow-up to the political process so far. At the same time, it provided internal and external support for the participants."

 

The thorniest problems, however, will be tackled in the future, Cohen said.

 

Asked if Israel would stick to its commitments as advised by Rice, he said, "There is no doubt that the US has asked Israel to implement its commitments."

 

Beyond question

 

Cohen continued: "Withdrawal from the cities of the West Bank is neither the first nor the last step. Israel should abide by the internationally backed road map plan for peace by halting settlement activities, removing settler outposts, supporting Abu Mazin as much as possible, and desisting from taking unilateral measures in Jerusalem."

 

With regard to Rice's reiteration of Bush's endorsement of two states living side by side, Cohen said, "At this stage, Israel's view is that the summit could first discuss the less contentious issues that are related to settlement tract and the road map plan."

 

He said, "There is no doubt that the issue of a Palestinian state is popularly and politically accepted in Israel. Sharon has expressed his support for statehood on more than one occasion as this eventuality is no longer open to question in Israel."