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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 12:51 GMT
Press welcomes Mid-East summit

Egypt's announcement of a summit meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh next week has been met with cautious optimism in the regional press.

While largely welcoming the summit, some Israeli commentators can't help thinking it will be used by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a good photo opportunity for the folks back home.

Palestinian commentators are also upbeat, although one expresses the fear that pessimism could return if there is no substantial progress.

Fifty-two months after the outbreak of the second intifada, in October 2000, the official declaration of its end will come at the quadripartite Sharon-Mubarak-Abdullah-Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] summit. The summit will convene in Egypt and will mark the renewal of reconciliation and normalisation between Israel and the Arab world. The end-of-the-intifada summit constitutes above all a great personal victory for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who until recently was called an arch-murderer and Palestinian blood drinker by Arab public opinion. His determined stand against Arafat has proved itself and yielded results for Israel.

Editorial in Israel's Yediot Aharonot

From Sharon's point of view, the official invitation to Egypt - for the first time in his four years in power - marks the end of international isolation. If the leaders of the Arab world are hosting Sharon, he will be a welcome guest in every capital. But Sharon is less concerned today with his global image and is, as usual, busying himself with internal survival. The photo-op with Mubarak, Abbas and Abdullah will illustrate to the people at home that Sharon is bringing peace.

Commentator in Israel's Ha'aretz

What will happen on Tuesday at Sharm el-Sheikh? An historic opportunity or a photo-op? Anyway, the prime minister has nothing to lose. For Sharon, this will be an heroic comeback. Sharon is in no state of euphoria. If Shimon Peres is like a balloon full of plans and fantasies sailing in the sky, Sharon is the boy holding the end of the string on the ground. There will be terrorist attacks, mishaps, crises and fiascos. Sharon knows this well. On the other hand, why not bring aboard Mubarak and Abdullah; whoever wants to join is invited (barring [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, of course) so that it will be possible later to accuse them all or at least share responsibility with them.

Commentator in Ma'ariv

He who knows President Mubarak knows that he abhors predestined failures. Mubarak's initiative to hold a quadripartite summit at Sharm el-Sheikh leads straight to the final statement: both sides, Sharon and Abu Mazen, will declare a mutual commitment to a ceasefire. There will be no negotiations and no political discussions. Mubarak, the mediator, will declare that the evacuation of Gaza is only the first stage of the roadmap. At night the four leaders will go back to dealing with the refuseniks who wait for them.

Commentator in Yediot Aharonot

Egypt's offer to host an Israeli-Palestinian summit next week can be seen in the context of a general warming of relations with our southern neighbour and of an Egyptian bid to regain a leadership role in the peace process. Since Egypt appears, of late, to be espousing policies geared to promoting peace between Israel and the PA under Mahmoud Abbas, from our vantage point it is going the right way. However, we have seen previous summits in the very same venue, which failed to live up to the hype.

It is worth recalling that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak consistently refrains from visiting Israel or from hosting an Israeli premier anywhere in Egypt except for Sinai. We would feel far more upbeat had he not been so stinting in manifestations of elementary congeniality and simply done more to build up our collective confidence in his intentions. The simplest and quickest step he can take is to return his ambassador to Tel Aviv.

Editorial in Israel's Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian people hope that the Israeli government will be flexible and positive towards legitimate Palestinian aspirations at the Sharm summit. This seems to be the aim of the Egyptian leadership and President Mubarak in allowing Sharon to make an historic visit to Egypt.

Editorial in Palestinian Al-Quds

The Sharm el-Sheikh summit will be part of a series of regional and international activities which the Palestinians will seek to mould into the implementation of the roadmap. But short term optimism could turn into pessimism in the long run.

Commentator in Palestinian Al-Ayyam

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.


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