Egypt-US: Mubarak meets Obama to revive Middle East peace process

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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saturday, embarked on an official visit to the United States. It is his first visit to the country since relations between the two countries hit a low point some six years ago. Tuesday, the Egyptian President and Barack Obama are expected to discuss the revival of the peace process in the Middle East. Meanwhile, opposition members and Copts (Egyptian Chrsitian church) have denounced the violation of human rights in Egypt.

It is a new beginning for U.S. and Egypt relations. Two months after Barack Obama’s Cairo speech in which he asked the Muslim world to reconcile with America, Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has finally taken a bold step on American soil. Hosni Mubarak arrived in Washington, Saturday, six years after relations between the two countries went sour. The Egyptian leader was accompanied by two members of his government; Abu Gheit and Youssef Boutros Ghali, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance, respectively. The officials have held several talks with many of their American counterparts, including Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the American envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. Hosni Mubarak also intends to meet some of the former U.S. ambassadors to Egypt. His agenda’s mention of a meeting with the American Jewish organisation does not come as a surprise consideing that Egypt signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979. Tuesday, a meeting is scheduled with James Johns, National Security Advisor, before meeting with Barack Obama.

A sign of reconciliation and Mid-east peace

Whereas disagreements between Washington and Cairo crystallized during George Bush’s final term in office, Barack Obama’s administration holds lots of promises as relations between the two countries are rekindled. Barack Obama’s pragmatic foreign policies are a far cry from George Bush’s radical standpoint. Human rights violations in Egypt have, since a considerable number of years, become the bone of contention between Washington and Cairo. In fact, Bush had threatened to block part of an annual 1.5 billion dollar aid to Egypt unless efforts were made to better their human rights reputation. The thorny issue of Israeli-Palestinian conflict was another bone of contention. While Egypt wanted a cessation of Israeli settlement in the West Bank, Bush strongly supported the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the brain behind the Israeli settlements. Barack Obama has chosen to break with the policies of his predecessor. And although he has shown little concern vis-à-vis the poor human rights record in Egypt, at least for the time being, the U.S. president intends to work towards a fair peace in the Middle East. On the one hand, he has pledged to continue providing the Jewish state with U.S. military support and on the other hand, he has called for an immediate freeze of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Hosni Mubarak: key personality in Arab-Israeli peace

Barack Obama is aware that he can rely on his guest to confront this delicate issue. Egypt is one of the US’s key partners in the Middle East. Hosni Mubarak is presently working to bring a stop to the fratricidal war between the Islamist Hamas movement that controls Gaza and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. The American Head of State is also expected to urge Mubarak to push for the normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel. Hosni Mubarak, on his part, should emphasize his vision of a two-state solution. To achieve this, the United States would have to agree to soften their position in what concerns Israel. So far, Tel Aviv has refused to abide by Obama’s calls to stop its continuing occupation. 300 000 Jews live in Palestinian territories. The two heads of state will also address economic cooperation, the Iranian nuclear issue as well as the inescapable human rights situation. Monday, Ayman Nour, an Egyptian opposition leader released in February after three years in prison, accused Barack Obama of neglecting the human rights issue. According to him, there is a marked drop in the promotion of values espoused by Obama during his electoral campaign… “It betrays American values,” he said. Followers of the Coptic Church could also demonstrate in Washington ahead of the meeting. Egyptian Copts who constitute about 10% of the North African country’s population have often complained about non-respect of their freedom of worship.

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