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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK

World: Middle East

Egypt tries new peace initiative

Mr Arafat returned from Egypt on Monday after talks with his closest ally

Egypt is making fresh efforts to push the deadlocked Middle East peace process forward, its government has said.

Middle East
Foreign Minister Amr Musa said his country had contacted the United States and Israeli governments.

"Egyptian-American and Egyptian-Israeli contacts are under way with the aim of overcoming the current differences between Palestinians and Israelis, and trying to achieve a result that would guarantee the implementation of the Wye River accord," Mr Musa said.

No progress

The key sticking points are the release of Palestinian political prisoners from Israeli jails and the size and timescale of Israel's withdrawal from the occupied West Bank.

[ image: Amr Musa:
Amr Musa: "Trying to achieve results"
Both sides are blaming each other for the lack of progress.

The Wye deal obliges Israel to release 750 Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinians say it was understood by all sides that these should be political prisoners.

Israel maintains that the agreement did not stipulate what kind of prisoners should be released. The only release carried out so far included about 150 common criminals.

Palestine talks

The agreed Israeli pullback from 13% of the West Bank was frozen by the previous hardline Israeli government in December, after troops had withdrawn from only 2% of the territory.

Mr Musa said the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, was expected to have more talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the next few days.

In a meeting with Mr Mubarak on Monday, Mr Arafat accused Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak of going back on last October's Wye agreement, saying he regretted that differences still persisted.

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