Saudi Arabia backs Egyptian plan for renewed peace talks
Egyptian sources to Haaretz: Abbas expressed willingness to accept plan if it is backed by Arab leaders.
Saudi Arabia is adopting an Egyptian plan for the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and is trying to rally Syrian support for the continuation of the negotiations process.
Egyptian sources told Haaretz Tuesday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "has expressed willingness to accept the Egyptian plan on condition that it will also enjoy the support of Arab leaders, which is the reason of the Egyptian and Saudi effort to rally broader Arab support so that Abbas will have the necessary backing."
At an intensive series of meetings Tuesday in the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak presented his plan before Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, who then went to Damascus to present it to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Mubarak also met Tuesday with Jordan's King Abdullah, who also expressed his support for Cairo's effort.
The details of the Egyptian proposal have largely been kept under wraps, but the Arab-language press describes an accelerated negotiations process that will be concluded in two years, when a Palestinian state is to be declared. The reports indicate that prior to the start of the negotiations, Israel will issue a "secret commitment" to halt construction in the settlements and Jerusalem without declaring such a decision publicly.
The proposal reportedly states that Israel will enact confidence-building measures, including easing Palestinian travel in the West Bank and releasing high-profile Palestinian prisoners such as Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sa'adat. Those prisoners would be released to the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas.
In exchange, Egypt is recommending that the Palestinians accept American guarantees that will include promises to monitor the construction freeze. They will also state which American officials will conduct the negotiations: U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell, and possibly U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Arab press has reported that the Obama administration supports the Egyptian proposal. The proposal is expected to be presented in full to U.S. President Barack Obama and Clinton in Washington next week, during a visit by Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and its intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman.
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