Newsletter : 6fax0313.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
March 13, 1996 V4, #47
All the News the Big Guys Missed
World Leaders Gather at Sharm el Sheik
By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Sharm el Sheik), Deborah Tate (VOA-The White
House), Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
World leaders gather in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el
Sheik today for what has been called "The Summit of the
Peacemakers." Those gathering are expected to shore up support for
the peace process and to discuss security and how to combat
terrorism aimed at sabotaging the peace process. A tight
security net has been thrown over the resort to make sure the
meeting does not fall victim to the very subject the leaders
Roadblocks have been set up every few meters along the few roads
that crisscross around the tiny turquoise-colored bay. The resort,
best known for its fine weather and coral reefs, has been turned
into a security zone.
Cars are being towed. Police are checking identity cards and
rechecking them to make sure nothing goes wrong when more than
30 leaders and top officials from North America, Europe and the
Middle East gather here to talk about peace and terrorism. Israeli
Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority Chief Yasir
Arafat are also here.
The main aim of the hastily called summit is to shore up support
for the peace process, which has been shaken by a wave of suicide
bombings in Israel. Mubarak has warned without such a meeting, the
whole peace process could collapse.
The threat of more violence by the radical Palestinian group Hamas
has cast a cloud over the summit. Hamas claims responsibility for
the latest wave of bombings that killed 61 people in Israel.
Most Arab states of the region will be represented at the summit,
even those not yet officially at peace with Israel. But Syria
and Lebanon have turned down the invitation. Even though they
are involved in peace talks with Israel, they usually do not
send delegates to international meetings where the Jewish state
is also present. They are accused of sponsoring terrorism in the
Clinton says he is taking part in the summit at the Red Sea resort
to underscore the US commitment to the Middle East peace process.
He said the day-long summit would have a clear purpose: "to condemn
the appalling acts of terror that have occurred in Israel in the
last several days, and to find ways to combat those who still seek
to kill peace with violence."
After the summit, Clinton flies to Israel, where he will personally
express his condolences to the Israeli people in the aftermath of
the suicide bombings. He will also hold meetings with Israeli
The summit in Sharm el-Sheik is intended to bring together
countries committed to the Middle East peace process to condemn
terrorism and renew the momentum of peace, which was slowed by
recent terrorist bombings in Israel. But preparations for the
summit are also revealing differing views of what needs to be done
between the two parties at the center of the process and the terror
-- Israel and the Palestinians.
For Israel, the focus of the summit is terrorism and the goal is to
develop a concrete plan for international cooperation to fight it.
For the Palestinians, the summit is a way to get the peace process
back on track. For them it means an end to the Israeli siege on
the West Bank and Gaza and the continued expansion of the
Palestinians worry the Israeli goal would bring them more hardship
through a continuing crackdown. Israelis worry the Palestinian
goal would open the door to more terrorism.
Those contradictions encapsulate the sorry state of the Middle East
peace process, which seemed to be going so well just more than two
weeks ago when the first of the recent series of Palestinian
militant bombers detonated his charge on a Jerusalem bus.
Peres goes to the summit just 10 weeks away from elections and
public opinion polls have already shown continued terrorism will
hurt him. He needs the summit to give him something tangible to
show Israelis he is doing everything possible to fight terrorism,
and that countries around the world -- including many Arab states
-- are going to help.
Israeli news reports say Peres and Clinton will also initial an
agreement for closer cooperation on defense and intelligence
matters when the president comes to Israel after the summit.
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