President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Hussein and PLO leader Yasser Arafat met Saturday to discuss prospects for Middle East peace and agreed to work toward readmitting Egypt to the Arab League.
The meeting on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was held in the wake of the second meeting between the United States and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and before scheduled visits to Washington by Mubarak, Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to discuss the U.S. peacemaking role in the region.Egypt's semi-official Middle East News Agency said the three Arab leaders, accompanied by top political and military aides, began the talks during a one-hour cruise in the Suez Canal and continued their discussions in the resort city of Ismailiya, about 75 miles east of Cairo.
At a news conference after five hours of talks, Hussein pledged the leaders of Jordan, Iraq and North Yemen will not attend any summit meeting of Arab leaders unless Egypt is invited.
Egypt's membership in the 22-member Arab League was suspended in the aftermath of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and North Yemen established the Arab Cooperation Council last month to forge closer economic cooperation and political coordination in an apparent bid to end Egypt's decade-old isolation in the Arab world.
Arafat told the news conference the PLO is trying to convene an emergency Arab summit to forge a comprehensive Arab plan and the main issue of discussion would be the readmission of Egypt to the Arab League.
"We are trying to convene this emergency summit as soon as possible, particularly in order to crystallize an Arab plan for a unified Arab drive to consolidate the peace steps and Arab and Palestinian peace initiatives," Arafat was quoted as saying by the news agency.
"We must make it clear here that if that Arab summit meeting was held, then we must discuss another basic issue which is the return of Egypt back to assume its natural position in the Arab world," he said.
Mubarak told reporters the main purpose of the meeting was to give an impetus for the call for an international peace conference on the Middle East. Mubarak, Hussein and Arafat, who met last Oct. 22 at the Jordanian port of Aqaba, have been actively campaigning for such a forum.
Without elaborating, Mubarak said that he discussed with Hussein and Arafat "the next steps" with regard to his visit to Washington next month for talks with President Bush.
Mubarak described Washington's current role in the Middle East as "positive" and said the same assessment applied to Europe.
"We do hope that Israel would respond positively to these developments so that we can reach a comprehensive and overall peace in the area," Mubarak said.
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, traveled to Baghdad for the first official visit to Iraq by a Saudi monarch in nearly three decades.
The Saudi monarch's visit to Iraq, to be followed by a similar visit to Egypt on Monday, coincided with reports that Fahd would use his good offices to help restore diplomatic ties between Egypt and Syria.
Most Arab states restored their diplomatic relations with Egypt last year, but Syria, Lebanon and Libya have continued the boycott of Egypt.