After Fez, Egypt drifting from other Arabs?
The Fez Arab summit has brought Egyptian-Arab relations to a crossroads. And Egypt now seems likely to drift further away from the Arab world.Skip to next paragraph
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As seen here, the other Arab leaders reached a consensus at Fez, Morocco, to ignore President Reagan's invitation to join in his ''fresh look'' peace proposals. Instead, they are viewed as adopting their own separate plan for a Mideast settlement.
Egyptian officials welcome the start of Arab-US consultations on ways of bridging the gap between the two approaches to settling the Palestinian problem. But these officials view the prospects of reaching a compromise as bleak.
For Egyptian decisionmakers, this means that the other Arabs have decided to leave Egypt no option but to endorse the United States peace formula - and forge ahead with talks on that basis. They see the far-reaching repercussions of Fez as:
* The reaffirmation of Saudi leadership, at least among the moderate Arabs, and confirmation of Saudi reluctance to reconcile differences with Egypt. At Fez there was strong opposition to Sudanese President Jaafar Nimiery's pleas for lifting sanctions imposed on Egypt for having made peace with Israel three years ago. This tends to confirm Egyptian officials' suspicion that Arab states are still unwilling to overlook President Hosni Mubarak's adherence to Sadat policies, despite his overtures to moderate Arabs.
* The downgrading of the Egypt-PLO dialogue started recently after years of bitter exchanges. The Arab summit reinstated the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians. It also called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, the dismantling of Jewish settlements, and withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories.
These Fez objectives dwarf the autonomy the Palestinians were offered in the Camp David accords. Subsequent Egyptian attempts to set up a US dialogue with the PLO and gain recognition of the Palestinians' right to self-determination are made to appear very limited.