Med Union summit at risk over Egypt boycott of Lieberman
Egypt is threatening to boycott the Union for the Mediterranean foreign ministers' conference scheduled to take place next month in Istanbul if Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, attends, Haaretz reported.
The Egyptian boycott on Lieberman may lead to the conference being canceled altogether
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Thursday told his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner that Egypt would not attend the session if Lieberman is present.
According to sources involved in the preparations for the summit, Aboul Gheit said he is unwilling to compromise on his stance.
"Forget it. I will not attend if Lieberman is there," Aboul Gheit said.
"I refuse to sit at the same table with him, or even be in the same room as him," he added.
The Egyptian ultimatum could lead to the cancellation of the meeting.
Israeli foreign ministry officials have sent requests to several union countries, including France, to pressure Egypt into retracting Aboul Gheit's public objection.
"Tell Aboul Gheit that junior Egyptian officials have previously met with Foreign Minister Lieberman, so there is no reason why he cannot be with him in the same room," the officials said.
The French have made attempts to convince the Egyptian foreign minister to retract his carpet ban on Lieberman but have not yet succeeded.
The Egyptians resent Lieberman for comments made more than a year ago, in which he said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could "go to hell".
The recent diplomatic tensions between Israel and Turkey could also pose another obstacle, the proposed venue for the summit is in Istanbul.
The Mediterranean Union was established in 2008 by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to promote joint financial ventures, scientific and cultural projects between the countries along the Mediterranean shores.