Arab FMs re-endorse 2002 Saudi peace initiative
Proposal vows recognition of Israel if it leaves occupied territories; Syrian FM: Israel must show commitment to peace.
Arab foreign ministers on Thursday re-endorsed a 2002 Saudi peace initiative which promises recognition of Israel should it withdraw in full from territories it seized in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The proposal was ratified despite proposals by some Arab elements to withdraw the initiative.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said on Thursday, prior to the ratification, that Israel must show a commitment to the peace process if Damascus were to re-evaluate its support of the Arab peace initiative.
According to Moallem, Israeli reluctance to take diplomatic steps towards peace was behind the decision made by Arab League members in Cairo last month that the continuation of the Saudi Peace initiative will hinge upon Israeli cooperation.
Moallem made his comments Thursday to Arab foreign ministers, who were meeting in Damascus to prepare for a regional summit scheduled for Saturday.
The summit has been riven by deep divisions between Arab leaders, mainly over alleged Syrian meddling in Lebanese affairs.
Lebanon has announced it is boycotting the summit, while Egypt and Saudi Arabia have announced they were sending only low-level officials to the gathering in a snub to Syria.
During his address, Moallem dismissed accusations that Syria was prolonging the deadlock in Beirut.
The majority coalition in a statement addressed to the summit called on the Arab states to put pressure on Syria to establish diplomatic ties with Beirut and abandon its attempts to regain its full control of Lebanon.
"Syria wants a stable, sovereign Lebanon. Anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken. We are the first to be hurt from a worsening situation in Lebanon and we will be the first to benefit from stability," Moallem said.
Moallem denied claims that Syria is preventing a resolution to the crisis, saying that all Arab states with a vested interest in Lebanon should make an effort to resolve the crisis, in particular Saudi Arabia.
Abbas says he opposes withdrawal of peace plan
Abbas conferred Thursday with Jordan's King Abdullah II on the upcoming Arab summit conference in Damascus, and said he was opposed to the proposed withdrawal of the pan-Arab peace plan with Israel.
"There is no room for changing or amending the Arab initiative," Abbas told reporters after the meeting.
"Our attitude has always been that this plan should remain as it is and that we should defend it and fight for it because it is an expensive initiative and the other side [Israel] should accept it," he said.
The Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa recently raised the possibility of withdrawing the Arab peace blueprint at the Damascus summit if Israel continued to ignore it.
An Amman-based coalition of 130 Arab political parties earlier Thursday sent a memorandum to the Damascus summit urging Arab leaders to "withdraw" the peace initiative which envisaged extending recognition to Israel by all Arab states if it pulled out from all Arab lands it occupied in 1967 Six-Day War, including East Jerusalem.
Abbas said that his talks with King Abdullah focused on "the Arab summit and what is going to be after the summit", a reference to the impact on inter-Arab ties as a result of declaration by some Arab states that they were going to be represented at low levels.
Abbas said earlier that he intended to lead the Palestinian delegation to the summit, but Jordan so far refrained from saying whether King Abdullah would head the Jordanian team.
Responding to a question about the outcome of negotiations so far between the Palestinians and Israel, Abbas said "the talks are going on but there have been no agreements until now."
During Thursday's talks, King Abdullah expressed support for the Palestinian Authority in its talks with Israel with the avowed aim of reaching a solution to all core issues in the run-up for the setting up of an independent Palestinian state, according to a royal court statement.
"The king at the same time underscored the necessity for halting all unilateral policies [by Israel] that seek to impose new realities on the ground, particularly the expansion in building settlements," the statement added.