PARIS, Aug 30 (Reuters/JMCC) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Europe on Monday to throw its weight behind US-led efforts to secure a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.
Mubarak, whose country in 1979 became the first Arab state to strike a peace deal with Israel
, discussed the matter with French President Nicolas Sarkozy before heading to Washington this week for the first direct negotiations in 20 months.
The American administration needs strong backing from the European Union for the peace process to continue, he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
are due to meet President Barack Obama on Sept. 1, according to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and launch direct negotiations the following day.
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has said that she will not attend the opening talks in Washington because of scheduled meetings in with Chinese leaders.
Sarkozy said Europe planned to further promote the push for peace at a Euro-Mediterranean summit planned for Nov. 20 in Barcelona, Spain, where key leaders from the Middle East would be present.
After months of stalemate, a hope exists. This chance must be seized, Sarkozy said.
I believe the US role is very important but cannot be the only one.
Mubarak expressed concerns that Israeli building of further settlements
would not help the peace process
We agreed that a peace deal should be reached within one year to end occupation and establish the Palestinian state, the 82-year-old president said.
There is a hesitation among Israelis to stop settlements and that needs more effort and European support.
After their hour-long meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Sarkozy expressed a similar view.
Firstly, every person in Israel should understand one thing. When there is hope for peace, everything should be done to bolster that, he said.