Diplomatic manoeuvres are gathering pace in the Middle East in the aftermath of Yasser Arafat’s death. The three Palestinian leaders currently sharing the responsibilities of their deceased president travelled to Egypt for talks aimed at rekindling dialogue with the Israelis. They met President Hosni Mubarak who has taken a lead role in efforts to broker a new peace initiative. Egypt is trying to unite Palestinian factions ahead of presidential elections in January.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said he would be willing to meet Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian leader seen as the main contender in the forthcoming ballot. Abbas, also expressing his views in a newspaper, said he would be open to direct talks with Sharon after the election.
Meanwhile the Israeli foreign minister, Sylvan Shalom, has said if the EU want to contribute to a renewed peace drive it would have to be less biased towards the Palestinians. “It can’t be that they adopt in advance 100 percent of the demands of the Palestinian side if they want to become a mediator or facilitator between us and them,” he said. Israel has on previous occasions accused the EU of not being impartial brokers – a claim denied by the bloc.