Arab League Floats New Peace Plan

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday mentioned a new Arab initiative for resuming the peace process under the aegis of the Security Council, during meetings in Jerusalem.

The proposal was included in a letter circulated last week by Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa. It is still not clear if the letter was appro ved by the Arab League or whether it is an initiative floated by Moussa and a number of Arab states.

The initiative is expected to be presented at a summit meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo next week.

The letter details a new mechanism for furthering talks between Israel, the Palestinians, Lebanon and Syria. It proposes that the Security Council manage and oversee the negotiations, and that the results of these talks be brought before the world body in a year.

The proposal suggests that during the period of negotiations, all hostilities cease and the UN is permitted to impose sanctions on cease-fire violators.

The letter explains that such an initiative is necessary given that all efforts to renew the peace process in recent years have failed. The letter also warns that in the absence of any progress toward a solution between Israel and the Arabs, the situation is likely to deteriorate further.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Annan that Israel intends to oppose the new Arab initiative because Israel is committed to the road map, which offers a framework for reaching a solution with the Palestinians and an agreement with Syria and Lebanon.

Sources at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem say the new Arab initiative will not receive the backing of the Security Council. In addition, it is unlikely that all the Arab League member states are in agreement over the initiative, they say.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are believed to prefer that diplomatic efforts concentrate on the Palestinian track, and are actually unhappy to hear some in Israel are calling for a resumption of talks with Syria.

The Palestinians are also concerned that renewed Syrian negotiations might be detrimental to their cause.