Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said Syria, Jordan and Palestinians have no alternative but to hold direct talks with Israel after an international conference.
"We will start with the international conference. That is the scenario I can envisage," Mubarak was quoted in Monday's Egyptian newspapers as saying.The Jewish state opposes Arab calls for a U.N.-sponsored international conference for fear it would force it to withdraw from Arab lands seized during the 1967 Middle East War.
Israel wants a one-day gathering without decision-making powers, which would immediately break up into direct bilateral negotiations with individual Arab states.
"The international conference will not be able to impose any decisions on the parties," Mubarak said. "But after the international conference, we must reach the stage where Syria can negotiate with Israel for the Golan (Heights) and Jordanians and Palestinians can negotiate with Israel."
"There will be direct negotiations," Mubarak said. "They will not negotiate through the radio or mediators. They must sit together like we did. There is no other way, but it must be done on a strong basis."
Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 - the only Arab state to do so - and was able through direct negotiations to regain control of the Sinai peninsula.
The newspapers said Mubarak's remarks were made in an interview with an Italian television station.
On Sunday, Mubarak flew to Damascus for talks with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad who said they was still hope for a Middle East peace settlement provided it was based on U.N. resolutions seeking the exchange of land for peace.