Israel, Egypt mark 1979 peace in somber tones

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Egypt, Israel and the United States on Wednesday marked the 30th anniversary of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in speeches recognizing that the full promise of the Camp David breakthrough had yet to be fulfilled.

In a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, ambassadors said both countries had a duty to ensure that the wisdom and vision of Egypt’s late Anwar Sadat and Israel’s late Menachem Begin be fully realized.

The treaty was signed on March 26, 1979. In Israeli media, the ensuing years have been a “cold peace” that has survived a series of challenges but was not necessarily guaranteed to endure forever.

U.S. ambassador to Israel James Cunningham said over the past 30 years, every U.S. administration had tried to build on the bilateral peace accord and achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

President Barack Obama had made clear “practically on day one” that he also would make Middle East peace a priority, he said.

Egyptian ambassador to Israel Yasser Reda said achieving a lasting peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors demanded a just solution for the Palestinians.

“The tragedy of the Palestinian people is a permanent source of crisis,” Reda said. “Certain regional powers” and extremist groups feed on it, seeking viciously to exploit opportunities to destabilize the whole region.

Reda said Israeli settlement activity on occupied land “not only narrows the window of opportunity” for a comprehensive peace in 2009 but also endangers the two-state solution that would establish a Palestinian republic alongside Israel.

January’s war in Gaza had exposed the fragility of the peace process to cycles of violence, he quoted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as saying.

The Jerusalem Post, in an editorial marking the “melancholy” anniversary, urged Mubarak to make his first state visit to Israel -- retracing the footsteps of Sadat whose surprise visit to the Jewish state in 1977 broke the mold of 30 years of war.

Writing by Douglas Hamilton, Editing by xx