June 15, 2009 / 12:08 PM / 11 years ago

Egypt says Israeli PM's vision for peace flawed

CAIRO, June 15 (Reuters) - Egypt said on Monday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision for achieving peace with the Palestinians was flawed and fell short of Arab and international demands for an independent Palestinian state.

Netanyahu endorsed — with tough conditions — the establishment of a demilitarised Palestinian state in a policy speech on Sunday. He said Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state and forego the right of return for refugees.

"The vision which the Israeli prime minister presented ... is flawed and lacks many elements and therefore requires substantial development to meet the level of international and Arab efforts for a just, permanent and comprehensive Middle East peace," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also said in remarks to the military on Monday that a call to recognise Israel as a Jewish state "increases the complexity of the matter (of achieving peace) and aborts the chance for peace."

"I affirmed to ... Prime Minister Netanyahu the necessity to return to final status talks where they left off, without delay," said Mubarak, who met Netanyahu when he visited Egypt in May.

"The call to amend the Arab peace initiative by dropping the right of return (of Palestinian refugees) would not lead to engagement from Egypt or elsewhere," he added in remarks that did not mention Netanyahu’s speech on Sunday.

Palestinian leaders have refused to recognise Israel as a Jewish state because they believe it weakens the position of the 20 percent of Israel’s citizens who are Arabs.

They also say it undermines a key demand for a right for Palestinians to return to areas inside Israel from which they fled or were forced out in a 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.

Palestinian officials have voiced their opposition to many aspects of Netanyahu’s proposal.

The spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said: "Egypt had hoped to hear a different Israeli vision based on a clear commitment to a two-state solution and the resumption of efforts to achieve a political settlement."

Egypt reiterated its call for a complete stop to settlement activity, after Netanyahu said new settlements would not be built but indicated he still wanted to let existing ones grow.

"Egypt will continue in its efforts and support for American and international efforts to realise peace through establishing an independent and viable Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital," the Egyptian spokesman added.

Netanyahu pledged to keep all Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (Writing by Aziz El-Kaissouni; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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