Egypt renews skepticism over Annapolis

Egyptian foreign minister hints that Cairo might not attend US-sponsored Middle East conference.

gheit 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
gheit 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Egypt renewed its skepticism over the US-proposed Annapolis peace conference on Monday, and its chief diplomat hinted that the heavyweight Arab nation may even not attend the gathering expected later this month. The remarks by Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit came after talks between President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as diplomatic efforts to convene the conference have moved into high gear. Aboul Gheit said the conference expected should launch peace negotiations that end with "fulfilling the dream of the Palestinian state." "If the meeting in Annapolis will achieve that goal, let us all go to achieve that Palestinian goal," Aboul Gheit said. "But if the meeting in Annapolis will not achieve that goal, then I think Egypt and other Arab countries will have reservations to participate." Neither Abbas nor his aids talked to the media after the discussions, but Egypt and the Palestinians have been at odds on whether the meeting has the ability to try to end the decades-long conflict. Mubarak has been showing reluctance to support the gathering, which he and Aboul Gheit have been criticizing as lacking an agenda and "an endgame" to resolve the Israeli-Arab issue. On Sunday, Mubarak discussed the proposed meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, another key Arab powerhouse which has showed similar skepticism on the conference. After the meeting, Suleiman Awaad, a spokesman for Mubarak said the Egyptian leader and Abdullah expect the meeting to "set up the final solutions ... within serious negotiations and a timetable." King Abdullah has said his country was not sure about its attendance. "This question is premature," the Saudi monarch told the British Broadcasting Corporation earlier this month. Aboul Gheit said top Arab diplomats will meet at the Cairo-based Arab League some time later this month to forge an Arab strategy on the conference. "The participants will discuss whether to participate or not, will this conference will make progress or not, and is it a movie show or real development," said Arab League chief Amr Moussa who met with Abbas.