CAIRO, Egypt, (AP) – Egypt and Saudi Arabia backed an upcoming U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace conference Saturday as a way to set the stage for a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, an Egyptian official said.
It was still unclear, however, whether the two countries would attend the conference, scheduled for late November in Annapolis, Md. Arab countries have been reluctant to commit to attending without guarantees that the meeting will yield firm results.
“Egypt and Saudi Arabia have a clear stance, that is to welcome the meeting because it comes after long years of a frozen peace process,” said Suleiman Awaad, a spokesman for Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
He spoke after a meeting between Mubarak and Saudi King Abdullah.
Awaad said Mubarak and Abdullah expect the meeting to “set up the final solutions … within serious negotiations and a timetable.”
Saudi officials did not comment after the meeting.
In September, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said his country would probably not attend the conference if it did not tackle substantive issues.
Mubarak also expressed concern in September that the meeting would not produce concrete results without a clear agenda. However, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit publicly endorsed the conference in October after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
President Bush called for the conference in July to break the deadlock in the Mideast peace process.
Palestinian officials said Saturday that pre-conference talks with Israel have hit a rough patch as negotiators try to write a joint document that is to serve as a basis for the meeting.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the two sides have not progressed beyond the preamble, and many disagreements remain.
Awaad said Egypt and Saudi Arabia were committed to ensuring the conference’s success.
“Egypt and Saudi Arabia are serious, and Mubarak and King Abdullah are very keen to make this conference successful because its success will eventually lead to the benefit of the Palestinian people and the rest of the region.”