Egypt FM: Netanyahu is serious about renewing peace talks
Ahmed Aboul Gheit said he was encouraged by Netanyahu visit; PM: conditions ripe for renewing talks.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Tuesday said he was encouraged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Cairo.
Aboul Gheit said Netanyahu is serious about restarting peace talks with the Palestinians. He refused to share details of what Netanyahu proposed, but he said the premier presented proposals that surpassed Israel's previous positions.
"I can't talk about details, but the prime minister was discussing positions that surpass in our estimate what we've heard from them in a long time," Aboul Gheit told reporters, adding "I can't say that he has come with changed positions, but he is moving forward."
The Palestinians have said they will not resume talks until Israel freezes all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They also want Netanyahu to resume talks from the point they broke off under his predecessor, Ehud Olmert.
Aboul Gheit said Netanyahu gave his Egyptian hosts the impression that he wants to get diplomacy moving again, and that everything is on the table.
Netanyahu headed to Egypt on Tuesday, for talks with President Hosni Mubarak on U.S.-backed efforts to relaunch Israel-Palestinian peace talks, as well as ongoing negotiations for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
In light of his government's flexibility, the premier will urge his Egyptian counterpart to impress upon Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the need to resume negotiations with Israel.
In an unusual development, Netanyahu is being accompanied on this trip by his special envoy who is responsible for the government's talks with the Obama administration, Yitzhak Molcho.
Molcho met last week with U.S. special envoy George Mitchell. The two emissaries reached agreement on a number of outstanding issues, including the time-frame to be allotted for negotiations as well as Israel's readiness to discuss the Palestinians' demand for a state on the 1967 lines.
Netanyahu said Monday that the "conditions are ripe" for renewing peace negotiations with the Palestinians, and promised to emphasize the issue at the meeting with Mubarak.
Netanyahu and Mubarak were also expected to discuss the negotiations to swap hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for Shalit, who has been held in the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip for more than three years.
Netanyahu's entourage also includes his national security adviser Uzi Arad, Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, and Meir Kalifi, Netanyahu's military secretary.