US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrapped up her short
visit to Egypt Tuesday afternoon after winning tempered support of
the Arab country for a US-sponsored international conference on
At a joint press conference with Rice, Egyptian Foreign Minister
Ahmed Abul Gheit promised his country's support for the planned
meeting, which was expected to be held this fall in Annapolis,
Abul Gheit said the message sent by Rice is encouraging, while
stressing that Egypt is ready to help all sides' efforts leading to
a lasting peace in the region and the establishment a Palestinian
"We are encouraged by Rice's briefing," said Abul Gheit, vowing
to help all parties reach the goal of revive talks towards a final
Abul Gheit added that Rice's visit helped the two sides
understand the objective of the US-initiated peace meeting. For her
part, Rice stressed that there are a lot of work to do for the
US-sponsored Mideast conference which aims to revive the stalled
Mideast peace process.
"(We have) a lot of work to do for the meeting and after the
meeting," said Rice.
Regarding the final date for the meeting, the top US diplomat
said it has not been set yet. But she said that all parties
concerned would be in a position soon to determine when the
conference will take place, expecting the meeting to be held as
scheduled this fall.
Asked about the possibility of putting off the meeting if Israel
and the Palestinians failed to reach a joint document ahead of the
conference, Abul Gheit said it should be better to put off the
meeting if the two sides need more time for a joint document as the
basis for final-status talks.
"If we are short of time, let's extend the time frame," said the
foreign minister, while stressing the importance of a timetable for
talks between the Palestinians and Israel.
Abul Gheit said Egypt called for a timetable ranging from six to
nine months or one year, saying "We can not negotiate indefinitely"
with an open-ended promise.
Arab League (AL) Secretary General Amr Moussa on Tuesday also
stressed the importance of a time frame for the stalled Mideast
At a press conference following his meeting with Rice, Moussa
said a time frame is very important and the US administration
understands the Arab's fear of an open-ended policy for the peace
Noting that the US is serious about the international peace
conference, Moussa expressed his doubt on Israeli reaction.
The AL chief said that the reaction from the Israeli side is not
reassuring and there is a question mark on its seriousness about
the international peace conference.
Israel and the Palestinians still differ with each other as to
what they should agree on before the conference.
The Palestinians and Arab states expect a detailed framework
agreement that would address core issues including borders,
Jerusalem and refugees. But Israel wants only a broad-brush
principle for peace talks.
Rice's visit to Egypt is part of a regional tour that has
already taken her to Israel and the Palestinian territories where
she met respectively with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to probe preparations for the
Mideast peace conference.
Rice said at the press conference in Cairo with Abul Gheit on
Tuesday that the aim of her regional visit is to persuade the two
sides to narrow the gaps between them before the planned
international conference on Mideast peace.
Earlier in the morning, Rice had talks with Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak to seek support for the Mideast conference, terming
their talks as "fruitful." After the stay in Egypt, Rice will also
(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2007)