Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leaders Split on Mission of Middle East Summit

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt -- Palestinian President Yasser Arafat arrived for a "peacemakers" summit in this Egyptian resort Tuesday, hoping to swing world leaders behind shoring up Middle East peace.


But as increasingly apparent rifts surfaced over the aim of Wednesday's summit, conference sources said the United States and Israel wanted leaders from around 30 countries primarily to condemn violence and agree to hunt those they term "terrorists."


The conference, hastily called after suicide bombings by Hamas Moslem militants killed 58 people in Israel, is being co-hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and U.S. President Bill Clinton.


"The most important thing at this summit is to protect the peace process, the most important thing is that we continue our march in the peace process to implement accurately and honestly what has been agreed upon, in spite of all that we are facing of violence and terrorism from the two sides," Arafat said.


Arafat is under great pressure from Washington and Israel, which has clamped a military blockade on Palestinian self-rule areas in Gaza Strip and the West Bank, to strike at Hamas.


He has arrested several Hamas leaders and around 600 of their supporters since the first bombing Feb. 25, but he bitterly opposes the Israeli blockade which Palestinian leaders believe fuels discontent and helps the Hamas opposition.


Asked if he believed the talks could end the violence, the Palestinian leader, speaking in English, said: "We are doing our best but we haven't got magic sticks [wands]. But at the same time we hope everyone in Israel will understand that the closure and punitive measures and punishment are not a solution."


Syria and its close ally Lebanon, where pro-Iranian guerrillas mount almost daily attacks on Israel's occupation zone in the south, are boycotting the summit.


"It is a disappointment because we consider Syria one of the main parties to the peace process and her absence would have added. They have their own reasons," Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told reporters, without elaborating on the reasons.


Syria is on Washington's list of countries which allegedly support "terrorism," and its capital is host to several radical Palestinian movements opposed to the PLO-Israeli peace accord.


Conference sources said a U.S. draft of a communique it wants the summit to back, already approved by Israel, condemned "terrorism" regardless of who carried it out and for whatever cause.


They said the draft would commit all countries participating to do their best to bring "terrorists" to justice. It also seeks international cooperation between the countries' political and intelligence agencies to find "terrorists" and prosecute them.


Libya, criticized by Washington as a supporter of political violence and not invited to the summit, nonetheless sent a minmster with a message to Mubarak from Colonel Muammar Gadhafi.


In the diplomatic flurry over the divided ambitions of those flocking to Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt sent presidential adviser Osama el Baz to meet Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, said officials in Jerusalem.


"Peres and the United States want a clear statement denouncing terrorism," said one Israeli source. "The Egyptians and the Arabs want to stress the peace aspect and raise the plight of the Palestinians."


Jordan's Prime Minister Abdul-Karim al-Kabariti, striking the middle line, told reporters in Sharm el-Sheikh: "I hope they will come up with practical measures to deter terrorism and further the cause of peace.


We are here to save the peace process, push it forward and abort whatever attempt that the minority, the terrorist organizations, make not to let us go ahead."