Israeli FM to meet Mubarak in Geneva

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom is to hold talks with Egyptian President Husni Mubarak in Geneva on Wednesday in the first meeting between an Israeli official and Egypt's leader since the current government was formed.

    It will be the first meeting between an Israeli minister and Mubarak since August 2002

    "This meeting with Mr Shalom comes as a result of the warming of relations between the two countries," spokesman Moshe Debi told AFP on Tuesday. 

    It will be the first meeting between an Israeli minister and the long-time Egyptian leader since August 2002 when the then foreign minister Shimon Peres met Mubarak. 

    Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries to have diplomatic relations with Israel, but relations have been strained since the September 2000 outbreak of the Palestinian intifada when both Cairo and Amman withdrew their ambassadors in protest at the "excessive use of force". 

    'Not enough work'

    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's right-wing coalition government was voted into office in January. Sharon, questioned by MPs during a meeting on Tuesday of the parliamentary committee on defence and foreign affairs, urged Egypt to do more to restore calm in the region. 

    "The Egyptians are doing some work, but definitely not enough," he said. 

    Shalom has previously praised Egypt's mediation efforts towards securing a truce by Palestinian factions that ended in failure on Sunday, after four days of talks in Cairo. 

    But relations between Mubarak and Sharon have been distinctly icy, with Sharon ruling out any Egyptian role in the current peace process if it does not release Israeli national Azzam Azzam, jailed in Egypt for spying. 

    Israel is also infuriated by what it sees as an Egyptian reluctance to put a halt to the smuggling of weapons to Palestinian armed fighters through secret tunnels under its border with the Gaza Strip.



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