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Middle East
Netanyahu 'wants new peace talks'
Israeli PM says he is open to negotiations, but refuses to commit to Palestinian state.
Last Modified: 11 May 2009 20:01 GMT

Netanyahu, left, and Mubarak held talks in the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh [AFP]

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has said that he hopes to resume the peace process with the Palestinians in the coming weeks.

Negotiations have been stalled since Israel launched its devastating assault on the Gaza Strip in December, leaving at least 1,300 people dead.

"We would like as soon as possible to renew the peace talks between us and the Palestinians," Netanyahu said on Monday after talks with Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, at the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh.

"I hope that they will be renewed in the next few weeks."

However, Netanyahu again refused to commit to discussions on an independent Palestinian state, a bedrock principle of international peace efforts to which Israel committed itself under the "roadmap" in 2003.

He has instead insisted that the Palestinian economy be improved before more substantive talks on other issues.

"We would like Israel and the Palestinians to live with prospects of peace, security and prosperity. The three things go together and not one at the expense of the other," Netanyahu said after Monday's talks.

Comprehensive

Mubarak said that Netanyahu had assured him that the new Israeli government was committed to peace.

"I demanded positive action on a two-state solution, leading the way to a comprehensive peace according to Arab Peace Initiative,' he told the news conference.

"I mentioned the importance of resuming peace talks with the Palestinians from where they stopped before, leading to the creation of a Palestinian state. 

"[Netanyahu] has preferred to speak about economic peace, something that all Palestinian factions, including Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, have rejected"

Nour Odeh,
Al Jazeera correspondent

Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh, reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, said that Netanyahu's visit to Egypt had angered several Palestinian groups.

They have officially sounded their concern that Egypt is welcoming the right-wing Israeli prime minister when he has not said the magic words ... he has not recognised the Palestinian people's right to establish their own state," she said.

"He has preferred to speak about economic peace, something that all Palestinian factions, including Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, have rejected.

"The speech really rang hollow as far as the Palestinians are concerned."

Egypt is one of only two Arab countries, along with Jordan, to have signed a peace deal with Israel and both leaders on Monday hailed the agreement made 30 years ago.

"The peace agreement between Israel and Egypt was signed more than three decades ago and we have been able to prove that peace is not an impossible proposition," Mubarak said.

US trip

Netanyahu's trip to Egypt comes a week before he is due to meet Barack Obama, the US president, in Washington and to finally unveil his policy toward the Middle East peace process.

Netanyahau may also meet King Abdullah II, the Jordanian monarch, on Wednesday, officials said.

In an interview with the UK's The Times newspaper, Abdullah said that further delays to peace talks would lead to the world being "sucked into another conflict".

"If there are no clear signals and no clear directives to all of us, there will be a feeling that this is just another American government that is going to let us all down," he was quoted as saying.

The Times said Abdullah had conceived the plan with Obama in Washington in April and that details are likely to be thrashed out this month, including during Obama's meeting with Netanyahu.

Abdullah travelled to Damascus on Monday to meet Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, to discuss the plan.

"President Assad and King Abdullah II underscored the importance of the US administration call for a comprehensive peace in the region based on ... the principle of land-for-peace," Syria's state-run SANA news agency reported.

Source:
Agencies
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