SHARM EL-SHEIKH - With the volatile ceasefire holding up despite threats made by the Islamic Jihad to breach the shaky agreement following the killings of two organization members in the West Bank during
an IDF operation – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stopped by for a brief visit to Egypt, where he hopes to advance the negotiations for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
Olmert met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort on Tuesday afternoon, and received the latter's assurance that Cairo was exerting considerable efforts to free the Israeli soldier.
The two leaders met in private at the beachfront Club Royale for an hour before their respective entourages joined them.
A senior member of Olmert's team said Israel had been assured that so long as Shalit was not released, Cairo would not open the Rafah border crossing.
At Sharm el-Sheikh today (Photo: Reuters)
The prime minister praised his host for the vital role Egypt played in the Gaza ceasefire agreement.
"Egypt and Israel have a strategic partnership, and your resolute leadership – alongside the alongside the extraordinary effort you dedicate to the pursuit of peace – are very much appreciated in the international
community and in Israel," said Olmert.
Mubarak: Efforts to free Shalit continue
The Egyptian president said his country was trying to secure Shalit's release. ''We shall discuss the question of Gilad Shalit,'' said Mubarak, speaking to reporters through an interpreter as he and Olmert went into a closed-door meeting. ''We are making efforts for his release.''
Olmert, who also said they would talk about Shalit, added that there were ''many issues'' on the agenda, including bilateral matters.
Arms smuggling into the coastal Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas, was also expected to be discussed by the
two leaders. Israel wants assurances Egypt will do more to fight arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.
Ahead of the visit Olmert granted an extensive interview to the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily, in which he said he genuinely hopes an agreement can be reached with the Palestinian Authority.
The paper quoted him as saying that if the smuggling of weapons into Gaza did not end, then Israel would consider the cease-fire agreement violated, and ''then we will be compelled to military action.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report