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Egypt might host second round of Mideast peace talks

From Ed Henry and Emily Schultze, CNN
  • Direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders begin Thursday
  • The talks in Washington will be the first between the two parties in nearly two years
  • If these talks go well, Egypt is offering to host a second round, CNN has learned

Washington (CNN) -- If this week's Mideast peace talks brokered by the Obama administration go well, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is offering to host a second round of talks later this month in his country, according to two officials close to the talks.

The officials stressed to CNN that nothing is firm yet and there is a lot of progress that still needs to be accomplished starting with a dinner President Barack Obama is hosting Wednesday night with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House.

Mubarak also is attending the dinner along with King Abdullah of Jordan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mideast Quartet Representative Tony Blair. On Thursday, Clinton will be hosting Abbas and Netanyahu at the State Department in Washington for the actual start of direct talks between the two parties for the first time in nearly two years.

Ambassador Soliman Awaad, a spokesman for Mubarak, told reporters late Wednesday that Egypt is ready to host a second round of discussions between Abbas and Netanyahu at some point between now and September 26, when Israel's 10-month moratorium on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank will expire.

Abbas has declared that the peace talks will end if Israel does not extend the freeze on settlements, while Netanyahu is under great pressure within his country to end the moratorium altogether, just one of many difficult issues to be worked out.

Awaad warned that if the moratorium is not extended then "all bets are off" in terms of negotiations.