Mubarak meets Saudi king, expresses support for ME parley

Egypt's presidential spokesman: "Egypt and Saudi Arabia welcome the meeting because it comes after long years of a frozen peace process."

Mubarak abdullah 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Mubarak abdullah 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah met here Saturday to discuss the upcoming US-sponsored Mideast peace conference, with Egypt saying both countries support the meeting. After the two leaders met, Egypt's presidential spokesman, Suleiman Awaad, said the two countries were backing the conference because it could set the stage for a final agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. "Egypt and Saudi Arabia have a clear stance, that is to welcome the meeting because it comes after long years of a frozen peace process," Awaad told reporters. Saudi officials did not comment after the meeting. Arab countries, notably US allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, have been reluctant to commit to attending the conference unless there are guarantees that it will yield firm results. In September, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said that his country would probably not attend the conference if it did not tackle substantive issues. Mubarak also expressed concern in September that the meeting would not produce concrete results without a clear agenda. However, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit publicly endorsed the conference in October after meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. US President George W. Bush called for the conference in July to break the deadlock in the Mideast peace process, and it is set to be held in Annapolis, Maryland, in late November. Awaad said Saturday that Mubarak and Abdullah expect the meeting to "set up the final solutions (for peace) ... within serious negotiations and a timetable." However, Palestinian officials said Saturday that pre-conference talks with Israel have hit a rough patch as negotiators try to write a joint document that is to serve as a basis for the meeting. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the two sides haven't progressed beyond the preamble, and many disagreements remain. Awaad said Saturday that Egypt and Saudi Arabia were committed to ensuring the conference's success. "Egypt and Saudi Arabia are serious, and Mubarak and King Abdullah are very keen to make this conference successful because its success will eventually lead to the benefit of the Palestinian people and the rest of the region." Also Saturday, Mubarak met with Iraqi President Jalal Talibani and was scheduled to meet with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is expected in Cairo on Sunday to meet with Mubarak.