`Message of peace will prevail'

Middle East conference: Peres condemns absent Arab nations as Clinton tells bombers their atrocities will achieve nothing

PATRICK COCKBURN

Sharm el-Sheikh

Leaders of 29 countries met in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday in an effort to prevent the peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians unravelling and to discuss measures against suicide bombers and their supporters.

President Clinton said: "From all over the world we have come to Sinai to deliver one message: peace will prevail." Mr Clinton told a news conference after the four-hour meeting that this "amazing group of people" had provided "a historic showing of the strength of peace in the Middle East today".

The meeting "sent a message that Israel is not alone", saidPresident Clinton. In practical terms the conference will help Shimon Peres, the Israeli Prime Minister, to survive politically and may ease the state of siege imposed by Israel on the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza.

But deep differences over the aims of the conference were evident as soon as it started. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who hosted the meeting, emphasised preserving the peace accords, saying: "The core of the Middle East problem is the Palestinians." Egypt is nervous of appearing to be at the beck and call of Washington and Tel Aviv.

Israel and the US wanted the conference to focus primarily on combating terrorism. There were promises of co-operation between security forces and a working group is to meet in 30 days to discuss the implementation of practical measures - such as the exchange of information between intelligence services. A senior US official said: "The Israeli and Palestinian authorities are now working together very closely to uproot terrorism. That is being done on a daily basis for the first time since the bombings."

Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the PLO, needs to see the state of siege of the 2.3 million Palestinians in the occupied territories lifted. But he also wants to resume the relationship he had with the Israeli government before the first bombs in the present campaign exploded on 25 February. "Labour are our partners in peace," said an official of Fatah, Mr Arafat's political movement. The danger for him is that he will be seen by other Palestinians as a pawn of Israel and the US who can deliver nothing for his people.

Mr Peres went out of his way to denounce Iran, saying it had spearheaded attacks. He added: "Tehran has become the capital of terror." Despite these accusations, a senior American official admitted: "Maybe 50 per cent of Hamas funding comes from private sources in the Gulf."

Iran has denied involvement in the suicide bombing campaign. John Major, the Prime Minister, denounced "pariah states" and called for measures to prevent the organisers of attacks shifting from one state to another. Nobody showed interest in criticising Syria which, like Iran, refused to attend the meeting.

From early morning, world leaders and their entourages poured into the Movenpick Hotel, on the beach in Sharm el-Sheikh, at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula. King Hassan of Morocco, distrustful of local catering arrangements, was accompanied by a long line of retainers in white robes and red fezzes, bringing supplies of water, coffee, tea and food. By contrast John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, arrived with one aide, carrying his own suitcase and with his Egyptian security guards lagging behind.

The site of the conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, between the red mountains of Sinai and the sea, eased the problems of Egyptian security. Even so, policemen were stationed every 50 yards along the road from the airport. Tourists lolling on the beach looked bemused by the influx of soldiers and police, but pleased to be the centre of attention.

Will the conference achieve anything? President Clinton trumpeted what a success it had been "to get this amazing group of people together". Probably international endorsement will help Mr Peres calm Israeli voters, but only if there are no more bombs. None the less, Palestinians will be pleased to hear Mr Clinton say that he expected Israel to ease its isolation of Gaza..

It is difficult to believe that elaborate plans to cut off funds going to Hamas will really prevent new suicide bombers setting off on their missions. And if they do the symbolic success of the conference, briefly reassuring for Israelis and Palestinians alike, will disappear in another explosion on the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
UK Border Control
i100
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Administrator

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Teleradiology s...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Administrator - Out of Hours

£19000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Telera...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Office Administrator - Full or Part Time

£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Content Marketing Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing, Google certi...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn