Mubarak, Sarkozy discuss developments, peace negotiations

Mubarak says premature to consider going to UN Security Council

Egyptian leaders heads for Algeria, meets Bouteflika over relations, region’s developments

Obama-Netanyahu talks take up peace, Gaza, settlements and Iran

Netanyahu links settlement freeze to presence of settlement outposts

Turkey threats to sever relations with Israel if it receives no apology over flotilla incident

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak discussed Monday ways to re-launch the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We looked at initiatives it will be possible to take," Mubarak told reporters after a 45-minute meeting with the French leader that also touched on ties between their countries.

The Israelis and Palestinians began US-mediated indirect talks on May 9 but they were thrown into disarray by Israel's announcement of plans for Jewish settlement construction in occupied and annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

Asked about the possibility of the UN Security Council being called on to re-launch the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, the Egyptian president said the idea was "premature".

"There are indirect negotiations under way at the moment," he said. "If these negotiations fail, we could perhaps, in this case, think of approaching the Security Council."

Indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians are regarded as a first step towards renewing direct negotiations which collapsed in December 2008 when Israel launched a devastating 22-day offensive on Gaza.

Egypt is one of only two Arab nations to have signed a peace deal with the Jewish state and is a key mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.

Sarkozy has said the United States and Europe could take steps in the coming months to re-launch the dialogue.

Paris has said this could happen at a summit of the Union for the Mediterranean which groups 27 European Union countries, Turkey, Israel and Arab countries on the Mediterranean and is due in November in Barcelona.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Sunday made a short "courtesy" visit to Algeria's leader, who is mourning the death of his brother, in a sign of improving ties between the North African nations.

Mubarak, accompanied by Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit, met President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to express his sympathy over Mustapha Bouteflika, who died after a long illness on Friday and was buried the following day, an Egyptian official said.

The two leaders also discussed several issues including "the enlargement of the UN Security Council and all questions of mutual interest to Algeria and Egypt as Arab and African states," the APS news agency quoted Mubarak as saying before his departure.

Earlier Abul-Gheit described the Egyptians' quick trip to the Algerian capital as "a friendly visit out of courtesy", according to APS.

He also said the talks between Bouteflika and Mubarak would confirm "the strong desire of the two leaders, peoples, and governments and states to continue to develop strong relations for the defense of Arab rights and to preserve the security of the region.”

Relations between the two countries have been fraught since violence broke out around the qualifying football matches for this year's World Cup finals.

In November, a bus carrying the Algerian team in Cairo was stoned and two players were injured. A few days later violence erupted after the match. In retaliation, local Egyptian businesses and homes were attacked in Algeria.

More violence also broke out after Algeria’s 1-0 victory over Egypt at a game held in Khartoum.

The incidents had diplomatic repercussions with both Egypt and Algeria calling home their ambassadors to each other's country for "consultations" and at least one major Egyptian investment project in Algeria was cancelled.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed into a White House meeting Tuesday with the same goal: trying to move the Israelis and Palestinians to resume face-to-face peace talks.

Netanyahu's limousine arrived at the West Wing entrance of the White House for the meeting as protesters gathered across the street in Lafayette Park chanted "No More Aid, End the Blockade," referring to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The prime minister had no comment as he entered the White House.

Netanyahu on Sunday endorsed the U.S. call for direct talks between the two parties, just days after White House officials said Obama would push during the Oval Office session for those negotiations to get under way sooner rather than later.

Addressing his cabinet Sunday, Netanyahu said the "time has come" for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to get ready to meet with the Israelis "because there is no other way to advance peace. I hope this will be one of the results of the visit to Washington."

Aides to Obama sounded a hopeful tone late last week, telling reporters that weeks of shuttle diplomacy between the two sides by George Mitchell, Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, had paid off and "the gaps have narrowed."

"We believe there are opportunities to further narrow those gaps, to allow the sides to take that next step to direct talks," said Daniel Shapiro, the senior Middle East director at the National Security Council.

Obama and Netanyahu also are expected to discuss Israel's decision Monday to significantly ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip to let in most consumer goods. Israel's ban on exports from Gaza and limits on shipments of construction material remain.

Israel came under heavy international pressure, including from Obama and other top U.S. officials, to loosen its 3-year-old land and naval blockade of the seaside territory following Israel's deadly May 31 military raid on a flotilla trying to break the embargo.

At the time, Obama said the situation was "unsustainable." He called for a narrow blockade to bar weapons that Gaza's Hamas rulers could use against Israel while admitting items the territory's 1.5 million Palestinians need for daily living and economic development.

Obama and Netanyahu also are likely to discuss efforts to end Iran's nuclear weapons pursuit, including sanctions Obama signed into law last week. That legislation followed a fourth round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran.

After the one-on-one meeting, Obama planned a statement, followed by a lengthy working lunch with Netanyahu. It was a far different atmosphere than during their last meeting when Obama, upset over Israeli policies in disputed East Jerusalem, kept the media away from a chilly late-night session.

Tuesday's meeting will be the fifth between Obama and Netanyahu and would make up for a scheduled June 1 session at the White House that Netanyahu canceled to deal with fallout from the flotilla raid.

The session follows meetings Obama held at the White House in recent weeks with key Mideast players, including Abbas and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

It comes after that rocky White House meeting between Obama and Netanyahu in March. That followed Israel's surprise announcement of plans for new construction in east Jerusalem as Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel and preparing for dinner with the prime minister.

Getting both sides to resume direct talks, which broke off in December 2008, is a huge challenge. One big sticking point is Israel's continued construction of Jewish housing in east Jerusalem, an area the Palestinians claim as part of a hoped-for future state.

The Palestinians have refused to sit down with Netanyahu until he agrees to freeze construction in areas they want for an independent state. Israel recently said it has no intention of doing so.

Abbas said last week that the borders of a future Palestinian state and security relations with Israel are the two issues on the table. He said direct talks can resume if an agreement is reached on them.

Obama has called on Jerusalem to halt settlement construction and on the Palestinians to show progress on security and stopping violence against Israel.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu said on Wednesday he was prepared to discuss "right away" the future of Jewish settlements if Palestinians entered direct peace talks with Israel.

Asked on CNN's "Larry King Live" if he would extend beyond September a 10-month moratorium on housing starts in settlements in the occupied West Bank, Netanyahu said it was time for the Palestinians to drop preconditions for face-to-face talks.

"Let's just get into the talks and one of the things we'll discuss right away is this issue of settlements and that's what I propose doing," he said.

Netanyahu was interviewed a day after a fence-mending meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, where the Israeli leader repeated a call for a restart of peace negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Direct talks on Palestinian statehood have been suspended since late 2008. Obama's Middle East mediator, George Mitchell, has been shuttling between Netanyahu and Abbas in so-called proximity talks.

The Palestinians insist on keeping Israel at arm's length until it makes certain things clear -- namely, what size and shape of Palestinian state is Netanyahu prepared to consider, and will its Jordan Valley be free of Israeli troops?

Earlier on Wednesday, Netanyahu said on ABC television's "Good Morning America" that Israel was prepared to take additional steps to ease Palestinian movement in the West Bank to coax Abbas into direct peace talks.

"The point is, we are prepared to do them. But what we want to see finally is one thing: We want President Abbas to grasp my hand ... to shake it, sit down and negotiate a final settlement of peace between Israel and the Palestinians," he said.

On the other hand, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying on Monday that his country will cut ties with Israel unless it receives an apology over a deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza.

"Israel has three paths ahead: It either apologizes, or accepts the findings from an international commission investigating the raid, or Turkey will cut off ties," Davutoglu told Hurriyet newspaper.

Once Israel's closest Muslim ally, Turkey has said several times it wants Israel to apologize over the May 31 raid, pay compensation, agree to a U.N. inquiry into the incident and lift the blockade of 1.6 million Palestinians living in Gaza Strip.

Turkey has said before it was reviewing ties with the Jewish state. But Davutoglu's words are the first time Ankara has explicitly threatened to sever ties unless its demands are met.

Israel has opened its own inquiry.

Davutoglu met Israel's Trade and Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer last week in Brussels in talks aimed at mending fences. Turkey said then it had told Israel what it should do to repair ties.

"The messages conveyed to Ben-Eliezer have reached the Israeli government. We will not wait forever for an answer," Davutoglu told Hurriyet's Monday edition.

"It will be enough if their own commission rules that the raid was unfair and they apologize in line with the commission's verdict, but we have to see the verdict first."

Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish-flagged ship Mavi Marmara on May 31 as part of an operation to stop a relief aid flotilla headed for Israeli-blockaded Gaza.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel, canceled joint military operations and barred Israeli military aircraft from Turkish airspace after the incident.

The United States wants Israel and Turkey, whose earlier friendship had benefited U.S. policy in the Middle East, to patch up the dispute. President Barack Obama is due to meet Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on Tuesday.

Israel has maintained its commandos opened fire only after a boarding party was attacked by activists wielding clubs and knives.

Israel says the Gaza blockade is needed to choke off the supply of arms to Hamas Islamists who rule the enclave.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been on a downward spiral since Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan spoke out forcefully against an Israeli offensive in Gaza at the end of 2008.

The two countries had forged a friendship in the 1990s largely based on military cooperation and intelligence sharing, though trade also prospered.

Turkey has improved relations with neighbors such as Iran and Syria in recent years and Erdogan became a popular figure among Muslim countries for championing the Palestinian cause.