The Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik is the venue for a landmark summit between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders today. But will it be the first step along the road to a lasting Middle East peace deal or another false dawn? The meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to lead to a ceasefire announcement by both sides.
The two leaderships have already spoken positively about the progress made so far in preliminary talks. The dialogue has been boosted by a renewed commitment to the search for peace by the US. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has brought that message of support in person in a visit to the region.
She said both Abbas and Sharon had accepted invitations to the White House in the spring for talks with President Bush to keep the momentum going. But it all depends on the expected truce holding and it is not yet certain that all Palestinian militants will go along with the ceasefire. The main factions have indicated Israel’s offer of an end to military operations in Gaza and the West Bank, and the release 900 of 8000 Palestinian prisoners does not go far enough. Leaders of the largest groups say they want to be consulted before Abbas makes any ceasefire declaration.