Egyptian Foreign Minister Discusses Peace With Israeli Leaders
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Egypt’s foreign minister tried to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on Monday to change his mind and support a proposed international Middle East peace conference, a spokesman for Shamir said.
Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Meguid, who arrived Monday for a three-day visit, is the highest-ranking Egyptian official in Israel since 1981.
Abdel-Meguid told Shamir in a two-hour meeting that Egypt believed ″the time is right for an international peace conference,″ according to Shamir spokesman Avi Pazner.
Shamir disputed Abdel-Meguid’s view, saying, ″the international conference is not the way to peace,″ Pazner told The Associated Press. Shamir told Abdel-Meguid that he would support only direct talks with neighboring Arab countries, Pazner added.
Neither Shamir nor Abdel-Meguid spoke to reporters after the meeting.
Abdel-Meguid told reporters at Ben Gurion International Airport: ″Egypt will continue to exert all efforts to achieve the resumption of the peace process through the convening of an international peace conference before the end of the year.″
″We are counting on the Israeli government and the people to stand together and support us,″ he said.
Shamir, head of the right-wing Likud bloc, has prevented Israel from agreeing to join such a conference. Shamir has argued that a wide forum of nations would put inordinate pressure on Israel to make sweeping territorial concessions for peace.
Egypt, the only Arab country with which Israel has a peace treaty, signed in 1979, is a leading proponent of the Soviet-supported conference plan.
While in Israel, Abdel-Meguid may also try to work out a formula for Palestinian representation at a conference. He is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Arab leaders in Arab territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war.
Israel has rejected Arab demands that the Palestine Liberation Organization participate in peace talks.
The proposed conference would include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, who would mediate a peace settlement among Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.
The Security Council members are the United States, Soviet Union, Britain, France and China.
Abdel-Meguid also discussed the proposed conference in a 45-minute meeting with his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Ministry officials said.
Peres, who heads the left-leaning Labor Party, has said he supports the conference idea because he believes it is the only way to achieve peace with neighboring Jordan.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abdel-Meguid and Peres also discussed ways of improving tourism between their countries, and working out compensation to the families of six Israelis killed by an Egyptian policeman at a resort in Sinai in October 1985.
Abdel-Meguid is scheduled to meet Israeli Cabinet Minister Ezer Weizman on Tuesday and tour Ben Gurion University in the southern Negev desert town of Beersheba.
A meeting was scheduled for Wednesday between Abdel-Meguid and a group of Palestinian leaders from the occupied territories.
The group includes Hanna Siniora, editor of the East Jerusalem-published Al Fajir daily, and Gaza lawyer Fayez Abu-Rahme. Both have been mentioned as possible candidates for a Palestinian delegation to peace talks.
Shlomo Hillel, the Speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, boycotted a reception for Abdel-Meguid given by Peres at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, Israel television reported.
Earlier, Knesset spokeswoman Sarah Itzhaki said Hillel ordered members of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee not to hold a meeting with Abdel-Meguid at the hotel.
Hillel said the Egyptian foreign minister must come to the Knesset to meet the committee, Ms. Itzhaki told the AP.
But committee chairman Abba Eban told Israel army radio Hillel’s intervention was ″unnecessary and unpleasant.″
Eban said Israeli Foreign Ministry officials had not included the Knesset in Abdel-Meguid’s itinerary and that the committee’s planned meeting had been called off before Hillel’s ban because Abdel-Meguid did not have enough time in his busy schedule.