Report: Lebanese, Israeli PMs Met Secretly in Egypt
A secret meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora took place in Egypt last October, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported.
The report quoted a “well-informed Arab source” who spoke about the meeting, which was said to take place during the Muslim festival ‘Eid Al-Fitr, following the month-long fighting between Israel and Hizbullah on the Israeli-Lebanese border.
The meeting took place in a discreet part of the Sharm A-Sheikh resort.
As well as the Israeli and Lebanese premiers, it was attended by top Egyptian political advisor Osama El-Baz and Saudi Prince Bandar Bin ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz, who heads the Saudi National Security Council, the source said.
The meeting was said to last for five hours, during which participants discussed cooperation between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and allied forces in Lebanon, in contesting the common threat from Tehran and Damascus, as well as from Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
According to the source, Olmert told Siniora that the extensive international presence in Lebanon and the American support for Lebanon’s allies created an unprecedented opportunity to relieve Lebanon of Iranian-Syrian influence.
Lebanon is currently in political turmoil due to a standoff between supporters of the pro-Syrian Hizbullah and their allies and supporters of Siniora’s government, which is backed by the United States.
Syria withdrew its military forces from Lebanon in April 2005 following public pressure after the assassination of former anti-Syrian Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri.
However, it is widely believed that Syria still holds sway in the country and that both Syria and Iran are exerting influence through the Shi’ite Hizbullah movement.
Siniora has explicitly rejected relations with Israel, openly saying Lebanon will be the last Arab country to ever sign a peace deal with Israel.
During the meeting, Siniora reportedly assured Olmert that his government was adamant in implementing its required duties, including disarming Hizbullah and eliminating forces aligned with Damascus or Tehran.
Olmert was said to have arrived in Sharm A-Sheikh on a commercial aircraft belonging to the Arkia airline.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the report.