JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Shimon Peres said today that he has "great interest" in an offer made by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to help restart a peace process in the Middle East.
Peres said he believed that Mubarak's offer to host direct talks between Israel and a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation "deserves a careful and a positive study."
Mubarak told The New York Times in an interview published today that he sent an envoy to see Peres during the Israeli leader's visit last week in Bucharest, Romania. Mubarak did not name the emissary.
More Optimistic Now
Mubarak also said he was more optimistic about the chances for peace after the beginning of a pullout of Israeli troops from Lebanon and the formulation of a joint peace plan by Jordan's King Hussein and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Peres, 61, was interviewed at his office in the Israeli Parliament, where he met earlier with U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis.
He said Egypt and Israel were exchanging envoys and he confirmed that he had met with an unnamed Egyptian envoy in Bucharest last week.
"I think it's an opening of a dialogue, and I shall look forward to the continuation of an exchange of views," he said.
Will Receive Envoy
He added that he would receive an Egyptian envoy in Israel and had sent Energy Minister Moshe Shahal, a leading member of his Labor Party, to Cairo for exploratory talks with Mubarak. Neither Peres nor his aides indicated when the Egyptian envoy would meet with the Israeli leader.
"So we shall have a rather intense opportunity to exchange views," Peres said. "I do believe that Egypt and the Egyptian president can play an important and constructive role in the furthering of the peace process in the Middle East.
"I read President Mubarak's statement with great interest. I think this statement deserves a careful and a positive study. On the Israeli side, he will find a willing and constructive party."
But Peres restated Israel's longstanding objections to sitting at the negotiating table with members of the PLO, which Israel contends is a terrorist group dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state.