Egypt: Gaza arms meeting 'unnecessary'

Israel wants to attend int'l conference on halting arms-smuggling into Strip, but may not be invited.

smuggling tunnel renovation 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
smuggling tunnel renovation 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Egypt is not interested in attending a meeting in Copenhagen planned for next Wednesday to discuss how to choke arms-smuggling routes into the Gaza Strip, and as a result it isn't clear whether Israel will be asked to attend, diplomatic officials told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Israel wants to participate in the meeting, initiated by the US and Denmark, but Egypt thinks it is unnecessary, one official said, adding that if Egypt didn't attend, Israel would likely not be invited. Egyptian spokesmen have said repeatedly that Cairo would not allow an international representation on its soil to help combat arms smuggling, but would accept technical assistance. Egypt has also denied that the weapons were coming into Gaza via the tunnels running under its border with the Strip, saying that they were being smuggled in by sea. Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, characterized the Copenhagen conference as a "meeting of low-level officials. It is not a political meeting, it is a technical meeting." Solana said it was clear that the arms going through the tunnels under the Egyptian-Gaza border were not originating "a meter on the other side of the tunnels," and that exchange of intelligence is critical in interdicting the arms supplies. "The exchange of information, exchange of intelligence is very important," Solana said. Solana said he did not know whether Israel or Egypt would be attending the meeting. Other countries expected to attend include Germany and the Netherlands. While both EU and US officials seemed to be downplaying the conference Wednesday, some sources in Jerusalem were playing up the importance of the event, with senior Foreign Ministry officials traveling to numerous European capitals to prepare for it. One government official said Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had an interest in the meeting, because just a week before the elections, the conference would put "meat" on the memorandum of understanding she signed two weeks ago with the US, and the discussions she has had with the Europeans since Operation Cast Lead relating to the arms-smuggling issue.