CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has urged Israel to open talks with the Palestinians on the full range of issues blocking the path to peace.
Stuttering negotiations between the two sides on a step-by- step “road map” towards peace have been suspended completely since Israeli forces launched an assault on Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip last December.
Mubarak said they should move straight to the six “final status” issues: borders, the status of Jerusalem, refugees, Israeli settlements in occupied territory, security and use of water.
“What is required now is political will, particularly by the leaders of Israel,” Mubarak said in an interview with the newspaper al-Quwat al-Musallaha (The Armed Forces).
Mubarak said he was in regular contact with Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak. He said talks should resume where they left off under the previous Israeli government. “It is not reasonable or acceptable to start from scratch. I told them that the negotiations should address all six final status issues without exception,” he said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last month that, for talks to resume, Israel must honour agreements on borders and Jerusalem that he says its previous government made in talks last year.
No clear agreements were ever published before talks were suspended. Netanyahu, a right-winger who took office in March, has made clear he does not wish to repeat any such offers that Olmert may have made.
After talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and Netanyahu, Abbas also repeated a Palestinian insistence that Israel halt settlement building in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. But Netanyahu has fought off U.S. and Arab pressure to freeze settlements.
Since then, U.S. diplomacy has focused on an immediate and unconditional resumption of negotiations.
Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, the first Arab state to do so.
Mubarak said that agreement, which saw Israel withdraw troops and settlers from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, should be seen as a model for future pacts between Israel and the Palestinians and other Arab states.
Mubarak’s comments, cited by the state news agency MENA on Saturday, are the latest in a string of calls for Israel to accept a framework for peace based on U.N. resolutions and a land-for-peace formula contained in the Arab peace initiative.
That initiative, launched by Saudi Arabia in 2002, offers normalisation with all Arab states in return for withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967 and a just settlement for refugees.
Mubarak said peace was “difficult but not impossible”.
Egypt has played a central role in negotiations to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in return for freedom for Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
On Friday, Israel freed 20 female prisoners after receiving evidence that Shalit is alive and well.
Egypt is also trying to broker reconciliation between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions running Gaza and the West Bank respectively, and hopes they will sign a pact this month.