In his first post-election meeting with an Arab leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to honor agreements with the Palestinians and pursue peace with his neighbors, Jordan’s prime minister said.
“I sense that there is a sincere commitment from Prime Minister Netanyahu when it comes to making peace,” Abdul-Karim Kabariti told reporters after a 1-1/2-hour talk with the new Israeli leader.
The unexpected late-night meeting came amid a flurry of diplomatic activity two days before Netanyahu’s planned visit to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak.
Earlier Tuesday in Cairo, Mubarak and Kabariti met separately with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa - suggesting Egyptian-Jordanian mediation efforts to restart Israel’s stalled peace talks with Syria.
Netanyahu said that Israel and Jordan agreed that Mubarak has “an important role, not only in leading the Arab world, but also in seeking to cement and broaden the circle of peace.”
Netanyahu’s victory in Israel’s May 29 election has raised concern among Israel’s Arab peace partners that his hard-line policies could stop the Middle East peace process. Arab leaders said Netanyahu’s stated opposition to trading land for peace was unacceptable.
But a smiling Kabariti said Netanyahu assured him Israel “will respect the (IsraelPLO) agreement and that the Israeli government is sincere and willing to fulfill the agreements that were signed, and I think that this is fair enough for the time being.”
“We both feel that we are committed to the agreements signed by Israel and Jordan, the agreements (with) the Palestinians, the Egyptians, and we hope that others will follow very soon.”
The two leaders would not say whether Kabariti brought a message from Syria.
Egypt broke ranks with the rest of the Arab world in 1979 when it signed the first Arab peace treaty with Israel. Since then, however, relations have remained somewhat cool. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.
Netanyahu said his visitor had “many important things to say” and thanked him for his insights on the peace process. He did not elaborate on what was discussed in the meeting.
The Palestinians are concerned by Netanyahu’s statements that he would only meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat if he believed it was vital, and by his refusal to date to commit to withdrawing Israeli troops from the West Bank city of Hebron as stipulated in the Israel-PLO agreements.