Washington: President Barack Obama, looking to kickstart the stalled Middle East peace process, will hold talks on Tuesday with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, who Washington hopes can help to get things moving.
The two presidents will meet during Mubarak`s first visit to Washington since 2003. Relations between Washington and Cairo deteriorated under the former Bush administration, whose focus on human rights and democracy promotion angered Egypt.
Obama, who has been less vocal about these issues in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, has made finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority.
"The trip is symbolic of the rewarming of a relationship that underwent a lot of tension during President Bush`s time in office," said Tamara Cofman Wittes, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington.
Mubarak`s visit comes as the Obama administration has been pushing moderate Arab states to take steps that could encourage Israel to freeze settlement building on Palestinian territory.
Arab states have so far been cool to the idea of steps such as giving overflight rights to Israeli civilian aircraft, lifting bans on visitors with Israeli stamps in their passports and allowing Israel to open interest sections in foreign embassies in Arab capitals.
They have put the onus on Israel to revive the peace process, while Israel has said the Palestinians and Arab states must first do more to advance the peace process.
A senior U.S. administration official said Obama and Mubarak would have a "robust discussion on the state of play in the Middle East." "In particular, the president will want to discuss how Arab states can help create a context to launch negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, by agreeing to gestures toward Israel in the context of the Arab Peace Initiative," he said.
Arab leaders say they remain committed to the initiative, which offers Israel recognition in return for withdrawal from Arab land occupied in 1967, creation of a Palestinian state and a "just" solution for Palestinian refugees.