CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet Egypt’s president and eight Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Tuesday in an effort to revive stalled Mideast peace talks, Egypt’s state news agency reported Friday.
Rice will meet foreign ministers from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as their counterparts from Egypt and Jordan, the agency said. The Palestinian issue would be at the top of the agenda, it said.
The GCC is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt’s state-owned Al-Ahram daily reported Friday that unnamed Arab diplomats in Cairo said Washington was trying to convince moderate Arab states to put more pressure on Hamas to work with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resume peace talks with Israel. The Islamic group Hamas dominates the Palestinian Cabinet and holds a majority in the legislature.
Rice will also travel to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Territories to consult with leaders “who have a vision for a more moderate, peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Middle East,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.
The peace process has been frozen for years, with both sides refusing to carry out their initial obligations under the internationally-backed “road map” plan. Abbas’ efforts to form a national unity government have been stymied by Hamas’s refusal to form an administration that recognizes Israel.
Relations between Israel and the Palestinians deteriorated after Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections in January and formed a Cabinet. It would be Rice’s first trip to the Middle East since a U.N.-brokered cease-fire halted fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas on Aug. 14 in Lebanon. Rice took heavy criticism during her last visit, in late July and early August, because the United States had refused to move quickly to end the fighting.