Egypt to attend Annapolis summit

Syria and Saudi Arabia are yet to announce if they will attend.

    Mubarak met Blair in Sharm el-Sheikh before
    the Annapolis talks [AFP]
    Syria is unlikely to attend.
     
    Ziad Haider, a Syrian journalist, told Al Jazeera: "They [Syria] have told many foreign ministers... that they will not go if the Golan Heights issue is not on the agenda of the conference."
     
    The Golan Heights is a Syrian territory occupied by Israel.
     
    It is unclear if Saudi Arabia will join the summit, but it would be unprecidented if they met for such talks with Israel.
     
    Hamas has not been invited to the talks.
     
    Egyptian mini-summit
     
    Egypt is also to hold a mini summit of Arab leaders on Thursday in Sharm el-Sheikh.
     
    Honsi Mubarak, the Egyptian president, said he would be meeting the Palestinian and Jordanian heads of state at the Red Sea resort.
     
    The conference comes a day before an Arab League summit in Cairo where Arab nations are to devise policy for the Annapolis summit.
     

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    On Wednesday, Mubarak met Tony Blair, the envoy for the Quartet of Middle East negotiators - the US, UN, EU and Russia - in Sharm el-Sheikh.
     
    Separately he also held talks with Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister.
     
    The two leaders discussed last-minute preparations for the Annapolis conference, which will take place in Maryland, US.
     
    After the talks, Olmert was positive about the possibilities of peace with the Palestinians.
     
    "I hope to reach a definitive deal with the Palestinians in 2008," he told reporters at a joint news conference with Mubarak.
     
    "There will be differences, crises and arguments. But if we act with caution, there is a chance that we can reach a deal," he said.
     
    However, Olmert said any deal would not occur until Hamas gave up control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority.
     
    Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said: "From the angle of the Bush adminsitration having Israelis and Arabs, especially Saudis, would be a good idea to put up a front against Iran and the so called radicals and Islamic terrorists.
     
    "For Israelis, in the words of prime minister Olmert, just the idea of having the meeting conveined is already a success and a good thing for Israel.
     
    "And for the Palestinians the idea that Mr Abbas [the Palestinian president] will join as the representative of the Palestinian people and hence sidelining Hamas, would be a good thing for the Palestinian president," Bishara said.
     
    "There is certainly strategic calculation on the part of the Bush administration that is involved a war in Iraq, another in Afghanistan, a third against Islamic fundamentalism, of course under the guise of the so called war on terror.
     
    "Hence so called processing peace in the Middle East has become almost a necessary conference language that the Bush administration uses constantly today in order to show that there is another face for the Bush war in the Middle East.
     
    "That is one involving diplomacy," Bishara said.
     
    Israel has authorised the delivery of 25 armoured personnel carriers and 1,000 rifles to the forces under Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, from Russia.
     
    The move is an attempt to support Abbas ahead of the summit and occurred despite objections from officials in Israel's army and internal security services.
     
    Strawberry and flower exports from the Gaza Strip have also been approved by Israel, in an attempt to improve relations and lessen the economic hardship of the region.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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