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Mubarak says time is right for Arab-Israeli peace | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s “reassertion” of U.S. leadership in the Middle East offers a rare opportunity to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said.

In an editorial in The Wall Street Journal on Friday, Mubarak said Obama was willing to take a lead in achieving peace and the Arab world would reciprocate.

“A historic settlement is within reach, one that would give the Palestinians their state and freedom from occupation while granting Israel recognition and security to live in peace,” wrote Mubarak.

“Egypt stands ready to seize that moment, and I am confident that the Arab world will do the same,” he added.

The Bush administration waited until its final years in office to make a concerted effort on Israeli-Palestinian peace and was criticized by many Arabs for doing too little, too late.

Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell has traveled four times to the region this year in a bid to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that were cut off following Israel’s invasion of Hamas-run Gaza last December.

Earlier this week, Mitchell was optimistic preparations for full-blown talks would be done soon although one stumbling block has been a dispute over Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. “Israel’s relentless settlement expansion, which has seriously eroded the prospects for a two-state solution, must cease, together with its closure of Gaza,” said Mubarak, referring to a blockade by Israel of Gaza which is controlled by the militant group Hamas.

Egypt has been trying to broker a power-sharing deal between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and Hamas and Mubarak said the Palestinians must overcome their divisions to achieve their aspirations for statehood. He said if Israel took “serious steps” toward peace with the Palestinians, the Arab world would do the same.

“The priority should be to resolve the permanent borders of a sovereign and territorially contiguous Palestinian state, based on the 1967 lines, as this would unlock most of the other permanent status issues, including settlements, security, water and Jerusalem,” said Mubarak.

Mubarak praised Obama’s speech in Cairo earlier this month, calling it a turning point in U.S. relations with the Muslim world, but also stressing it had to be followed up with “forward-looking” steps.

“I look forward to working with the president to achieve that objective,” said Mubarak.

Obama was criticized by some human rights groups for choosing Cairo as the venue for his speech because of Egypt’s own rights record.

Mubarak said Egypt had implemented reforms but conceded more must be done. “We openly acknowledge that this process still has a way to go in fulfilling our aspirations,” he added.