Olmert to meet Mubarak in Sharm

PM to begin briefing regional and world leaders on 'realignment.'

livni in turkey shul 298 (photo credit: Foreign Ministry)
livni in turkey shul 298
(photo credit: Foreign Ministry)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak next Sunday in Sharm e-Sheikh, the Prime Minister's Office announced Sunday, as Olmert begins briefing regional and world leaders on the diplomatic situation in the region and his "realignment" plan. A week later Olmert is expected to go to Britain and France and brief the leaders there on the current situation. He is also expected to meet in the near future with Jordan's King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, although no dates have yet been given for those meetings.
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Egypt has come out squarely against further Israeli unilateral steps, and diplomatic officials said that it was highly unlikely that Olmert would convince Mubarak otherwise. The importance of the meeting, one official said, was to coordinate various moves with the Egyptians, and to keep Cairo in the loop as to Israeli thinking and plans. He is expected to brief Mubarak on his recent talks in the US. This will be the first Mubarak-Olmert meeting since Olmert took over from Ariel Sharon as Acting Prime Minister in January. The two, however, have spoken on the phone a number of times. Sharon put an end to the custom that was prevalent during the term of Ehud Barak, whereby Israeli leaders traveled regularly to Cairo to meet with Mubarak. While Sharon also spoke periodically on the phone with Mubarak, he met him as prime minister only once - at a summit in Sharm in February 2005. Mubarak spoke last summer of the possibility of coming to Israel after the Gaza disengagement, but that visit never materialized, He was here once briefly to attend Yitzhak Rabin's funeral, and Israeli diplomatic officials said not to expect a visit from the Egyptian president unless there was a dramatic breakthrough with the Palestinians. According to Israeli sources, Mubarak was not expected to press Israel to ease its diplomatic pressure on Hamas, but would likely ask Olmert to do what he could to strengthen Abbas and to ensure that the humanitarian situation in the territories did not worsen. In a related development, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made her first visit abroad Sunday since the new cabinet was sworn in, traveling to Turkey for a two-day visit. That Turkey was her first destination underscored the importance of the Turkish-Israeli relationship, and also showed that no lasting damage was done to the relationship following the visit to Ankara of a Hamas delegation in February, a senior foreign ministry official said Sunday. Livni herself addressed the issue in an interview she gave to the Turkish Milliyet newspaper on Saturday, saying, "I am not coming to discuss this little incident in the past, but to hold talks that will strengthen our ties, which are founded on common values. Turkey and Israel share the same opinion that Hamas must change its views. The discussion between us arose from a difference in tactics." Livni began her trip to Turkey with a visit to the Neveh Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, which was hit by a terrorist attack in 1986 that killed 22 people, and another attack in 2003 that killed 23 people. In a guest book at the synagogue Livni wrote, "I have come to honor the memory of those who were murdered in the terrible attack on the synagogue. The people of Israel stand as one in solidarity with our family, the Jewish community in Turkey." Livni will meet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in Ankara on Monday for talks expected to focus on Hamas, Iran, and a host of bilateral issues.