Egypt Takes Credit for Peace Talks

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EGYPT, long ostracized by other Arab states for its separate peace of 1979, is now playing broker to a wider Arab-Israeli peace.

According to Egyptian officials, these efforts are an extension of the peace process carried out by then-President Jimmy Carter, Israel's Menachim Begin, and the late Anwar Sadat.

"The (peace) process was there, laying in abeyance until the Syrian response," said a senior Foreign Ministry official. "The Syrian response came through intensive consultations with us. With it the process has probably been relaunched."

In recent weeks, Egyptian diplomats have carried out a flurry of diplomatic contacts, to support US peace proposals.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in the first state visit of an Egyptian leader to London, told reporters Wednesday that he was optimistic that Arab-Israeli peace talks might get under way, Reuters reports. He urged Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, to "be more flexible."

Former Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid, now secretary-general of the Arab League, arrived in Jordan Wednesday for talks on an Arab-Israeli peace settlement, following stopovers in Syria and Lebanon.

Usama al-Baz, senior political advisor to President Mubarak, held talks in Libya last Sunday while Algeria's foreign minister came to Cairo the previous week. Egypt has also carried out low-profile talks with Palestinian representatives since March.

"This is something which has been worked upon for a lengthy period of time" Mr. Baz said. "We have been engaging the Jordanians, the Palestinians, the Gulf states, and the north Africans."

Government sources also say Syrian President Hafez al-Assad will visit Cairo later this month.

"Now you have an Arab position which accepts the two-track approach; an approach based on the trade of land for peace, the terms of reference of any settlement being (UN resolutions) 242 and 338," said Baz.

"And finally an Arab position which calls for endorsement of the call for a moratorium on the (economic) boycott of Israel in exchange for a moratorium on the building of Israeli settlements," he said.

Syria, the most implacable of Israel's enemies, has said it is ready to have face-to-face talks with the nation so long referred to as "the Zionist entity. …