President Hosni Mubarak held talks with Washington's Middle East envoy this morning at the presidential headquarters in Heliopolis.
Arriving in Cairo after a round of talks with both Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, George Mitchell sought to solicit the support of Egypt and the understanding of the Arab League for Washington's current attempt at salvaging the peace process.
Following his talks with President Mubarak, Mitchell could not offer a major breakthrough in the near future, instead dimly mentioning the possibility of achieving progress "within a few months".
The veteran US diplomat emphasised that the differences between Palestinians and Israelis "are real". Consequently, in order for these differences to be resolved, he suggested, there needs to be time, concentrated diplomatic efforts and confidence-building between the two parties.
Mitchell reiterated the statement made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday in which she stressed that recognising the two-state solution "will not be easy".
He added, however, that the parties have requested that the US continue its efforts towards the realisation of a framework agreement.
The aspired framework agreement, Mitchell added, "would establish fundamental compromises on all permanent status issues".
The permanent status issues are: the fate of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees, security arrangements, management of water resources and the borders of the proposed Palestinian state.
This framework agreement, the US envoy added, should lead to a final peace agreement – he did clarify when, however.
Mitchell is expected at the Arab League later this afternoon for talks with its chief, Amr Moussa, ahead of the organisation's follow-up committee that intends to examine the current situation in light of the collapsed direct talks. The committee will examine Washington's admitted failure at compelling Israel to extend a settlement moratorium -- the primary Arab condition for the continuity of the direct talks.
The planned meeting between Mitchell and Moussa, ahead of the Arab meeting, is atypical. A US diplomat informed Ahram Online that the meeting signals certain unease on behalf of Washington regarding Abbas' willingness to proceed with indirect negotiations to be conducted by Mitchell on both security – the number one issue on the Israeli agenda – and the borders of a future Palestinian state.
According to the same diplomat, the US has been asking Cairo to 'encourage President Abbas' to go ahead with the US proposal and not to turn 'just yet' to the UN Security Council in search of recognition for a future Palestinian state.
Prior to his meeting with Mitchell, Mubarak received Abbas who briefed him, according to a Palestinian diplomat, on the 'insufficient nature' of Mitchell's proposal.
Abbas is also scheduled to meet with Moussa later this afternoon before he takes part in the Arab ministerial meeting that should decide a collective Arab reaction to the US proposal.