Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak arrived in Cairo today to discuss US-backed efforts to revive Middle East peace efforts with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, an Israeli official said.
Barak will also meet with Egypt's chief mediator between Israel and the Islamist Hamas Omar Suleiman and Defence Minister Hussein Tantawi, the official said.
Barak will use his rare visit to the Egyptian capital Israeli leaders usually are hosted in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh "to explore the diplomatic possibilities in the region," another Israeli official said ahead of the visit.
The meeting follows a landmark speech delivered by US President Barack Obama in Cairo on June 4 in which he outlined his strategy for re-launching the faltering peace talks.
It will also come a week after hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed for the first time the creation of a Palestinian state, albeit demilitarised, at the end of the peace talks.
Barak, who heads the centre-left Labour party, hailed Netanyahu's speech as a "major step forward in the right direction."
Mubarak meanwhile said a peace deal was "within reach" but that Israel must stop settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.