Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Israel to resume peace talks with the Palestinians where they broke off more than a year ago, warning that the peace process "can't take another failure."
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations tapered off last year and haven't resumed since Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, and the election of Binaymin Netanyahu as prime minister. Since then, the two sides have yet to establish a framework to renew talks. The Palestinians want to pick up where negotiations left off, while Netanyahu says he is not bound by any concessions his predecessor made.
However, in an interview published Sunday, Mubarak called on Israel to respond positively to the renewed push for peace and resume talks where they left off.
"It is unreasonable and unacceptable to start from zero," Mubarak told the Armed Forces newspaper. "I told [Israel] that ... settlements are eating away Palestinian land and must stop immediately."
Mubarak's comments were part of a wide ranging interview published days ahead of the 36th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War that opened the way for the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty six years later.
US President Barack Obama has spearheaded renewed efforts to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, but key sticking points remain. The Palestinians say talks should resume where they left off, and want a complete freeze of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.
Israel has agreed to slow settlement building, but has rejected a total halt to construction. Israel had pledged to stop settlement building in a 2003 US-backed peace plan, but has not done so, claiming that the Palestinians have not carried out their obligations.
Mubarak said he was optimistic that US efforts would bring the two sides back to the table and would usher in wider regional talks to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"The region is rife with crises, conflicts and tension," Mubarak said. "The Middle East will remain a region of instability in the absence of a peaceful and just settlement to the Palestinian issue. The situation is critical, and the peace process ... can't take another failure."
Mubarak urged Israel to "reconsider" the way it deals with the Palestinians and Arabs to ensure a return to "normal" relations in the region.
"Israel must take a big step like the total halt to settlement and achieving tangible results in peace negotiations before talking of any Arab gestures, initiatives or step toward it," he said.