Egypt’s president has arrived in Washington for the first time in nearly five years to hold talks expected to focus on Israel and the Palestinians and Iran’s nuclear programme.
Hosni Mubarak will meet Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, on Monday before meeting US President Barack Obama at the White House the following day.
"The visit now comes at a critical time because the American side is coming closer to announcing its vision on how to achieve peace and end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Ahmed Abul Gheit, Egypt’s foreign minister, told al-Ahram, an Egyptian newspaper, on Saturday.
The talks between Mubarak and senior Obama administration officials including James Jones, the US national security adviser, and Dennis Blair, the US director of national intelligence, will address the Middle East peace process, political tensions in Sudan and Iran’s nuclear programme, Abul Gheit said.
The US has in recent months placed more pressure on Israel’s government to order a halt to settlement-building activity on land designated for a future Palestinian state.
However, it has also urged Arab nations to normalise relations with Israel.
Egypt formally recognised its northern neighbour in 1979, while Jordan signed a peace treaty with Tel Aviv in 1994, but other Arab states have refused to normalise ties.
Cairo has in recent months mediated between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian organisation which refuses to recognise Israel, as part of efforts to forge a lasting peace settlement.
Egyptian officials have also served as the interlocutor between Hamas, which has de facto control of the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, a Palestinian group that has held talks in the past with Israel.
Attempts by Egypt to kick-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have so far proved unsuccessful, while Hamas and Fatah remain at odds.
Obama administration officials are not expected to criticise Egypt’s human rights record during Mubarak’s visit to the US, given that the talks will focus on foreign policy.