SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Thursday Israel needs to revise its position over peace talks and settlement-building to reach a final accord with the Palestinians.
Meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Mubarak sought to nudge the peace process forward after the United States said in December it had failed to persuade Israel to restrict building of settlements building on occupied land the Palestinians want for a state.
The EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on Thursday for the Quartet of Middle East mediators to meet early next month to help Israel and the Palestinians overcome a deadlock in peace talks.
“I propose the Quartet meet as soon as possible to help find a solution to the current impasse. The Munich Security Conference in early February offers a good opportunity,” Ashton said at the end of a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
U.S.-sponsored talks in September fizzled after three weeks when Israel refused to extend a partial 10-month freeze on West Bank settlements, spurring the Palestinians to walk out.
Israel says it took the necessary steps to restore negotiations to no avail. Mubarak blamed Israel for the collapse of the talks and urged Washington to reinvigorate the process.
He said Israel must “revise its position and policy and embark on tangible procedures ... to reach a final settlement, not in stages or temporary, that ends the occupation and establishes an independent Palestinian state,” said a statement issued by Mubarak’s spokesman after the meeting.
Netanyahu said in December an interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could be an outcome if the parties fail to reach agreement on core “final status” issues.
“Israel offered goodwill initiatives, concessions and has taken wide steps to convince Palestinians to resume negotiations but unfortunately the Palestinian side refuses either direct or indirect talks,” said Ofir Gendelman, Netanyahu’s spokesman.
The status of Jerusalem, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the fate of Palestinian refugees are core issues that Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would have to resolve to reach a peace deal.
Mubarak said Egypt “opposed any new aggression” against Gaza, warning that any attack, suggested by “Israel’s latest threats,” would imperil the peace process, the statement said.
Violence has escalated in recent weeks along the volatile frontier, although both Israel and Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers say they are working to avoid a full-blown confrontation.