SHARM EL-SHEIKH: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Thursday evening with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Olmert said, "I thanked the president for the efforts Egypt is making to release the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas in a violent attack, and is still being held by a terror organization that does not recognize the State of Israel or is willing to honor the ceasefire reached between us and the Palestinian president."
Mubarak said that "We are working towards releasing Palestinian prisoners in Israel and the Israeli prisoner held by the Palestinians, I hope we resolve this issue soon."
Olmert and Mubarak on Thursday evening (Photo: GPO)
The two leaders also addressed the arrest operation in Ramallah Thursday afternoon, in which four Palestinian civilians were killed. Mubarak condemned the IDF's operation and expressed his outrage to Olmert who apologized for the incident. "I, of course, am sorry if innocent people were hurt in Ramallah," said Olmert, "but we must remember that Israel needs to take steps to prevent terrorists from harming Israeli citizens."
"Today's operation was aimed at arresting terrorists who murdered innocent Israelis," said Olmert, "during the operation gunmen opened fire at the Israeli soldiers, if people who were uninvolved were harmed this was of course not our intention."
Earlier, after being met at the local airport by the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs and the governor of southern Sinai, Olmert made his way to meet with Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh.
On the agenda
Olmert and Mubarak were expected to discuss the three major issues on the agenda: Negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Israel's demand of Egypt to make a greater effort to put an end to the smuggling of arms into Gaza across the Philadelphi route as well as money through the Rafah crossing and international operations towards strengthening moderates in the Arab world.
In contrast to previous reports, the focus of the meeting does not seem to be the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit and officials in Israel tried to lower expectations regarding significant progress towards Shalit's return.
Earlier on Thursday it was reported that Israel will consider participating in a regional summit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah and President Mubarak – should such an offer be made.
The disparity between the positions maintained by Israel and Hamas on the issue of Shalit remains, both in regards to the number of Palestinian prisoners who will be let go and their identity.
Olmert continues to place his trust in Egypt as a mediator to secure Shalit's release. In Israel much gratitude is felt towards Mubarak and his Chief Intelligence Officer, Omar Suliman, even through despite their efforts no solution has been found to solve the crisis.