Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
13 - 19 April 2000
Issue No. 477
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

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Treading warily

By Dina Ezzat

"We have gone far [to realise peace in the Middle East] but we still have a very long way to go before we reach our objective," Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told Ain Shams University students on Tuesday evening. And that was as far as he would go in addressing Arab-Israeli peace-making in a lecture supposedly addressing the post-peace scenario in the Middle East.

The theme was first brought up by Moussa in a lecture he delivered a few months ago to Cairo University students. At that time the Middle East was engaged in a promising process of contacts and negotiations, leading some to argue that a comprehensive peace might be reached during the year 2000. Moussa then spoke in a language that suggested a certain optimism, albeit cautious, about the possibilities of "closing the file of the Arab-Israeli conflict within five years at most." There was no optimism, though, in the minister's Tuesday speech.

Gone is the Benyamin Netanyahu-Ehud Barak comparison, used often just a few months ago to argue that the latter was better for peace than the former. Instead, Moussa now talks of "huge problems and wrong policies that create so many obstacles on the road to peace."

During the question-and-answer session which followed his 40-minute lecture Moussa made some policy statements related to the peace process. "Addressing the consequences of the [planned] Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon" is one thing, opposing the withdrawal another, he said. And "a strong Arab grouping should provide the [economic and political] base for a strong Middle East."

Moussa seemed keen to stress that Egypt has much more to worry about and work towards than the peace process, central as it is to Egyptian foreign policy.

"We are working on opening up new vistas," said Moussa, referring to Egypt's interest in Africa, the Mediterranean and the third world.

A broad role was the focus of the message Moussa was trying to put across on Tuesday. Egypt's role, he argued, "did not start in 1948 when the [Arab-Israeli] conflict began."

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