Arab League Chief: Palestine and Peace Process Are Top Priority in 2011

Amr Moussa blames breakdown of Mideast peace talks on Israeli 'unilateralism'; Arab League plans to hold summit on topic of Jerusalem in Qatar in February.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said on Monday that, among the organization's top priorities in 2011, is the issue of Middle East peace and Palestine.

"The Palestinian issue and the peace process are a priority," said Moussa at a press conference in Cairo, where the 22-member Arab League is based.

Fatah and Hamas officials - AP - June 13, 2010

The Arab League is gearing for a summit on the topic of Jerusalem to be held in Qatar in early February.

Speaking on the two-year anniversary of "Operation Cast Lead," Israel's three-week long offensive against the Hamas organization in the Gaza Strip, Moussa said that the Palestinian people "are steadfast and patient, but suffer a lot because of the occupation and repressive actions."

"I visited Gaza and saw the situation for myself. It was a painful thing to see," said Moussa, who reiterated the Arab League's position that Israel end its blockade on the Gaza Strip.

He said the peace process has lost momentum because of Israel's "unilateralism" and the continuation of settlement construction in the West Bank, a swathe of land to be at the cornerstone of any future independent Palestinian state.

"Negotiating under settlement expansion is a great deception, and how do we negotiate on land being eroded?" asked Moussa.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, earlier this year, sought the backing of the Arab League for a number of alternative measures to direct peace talks, including referring the issue to the United Nations Security Council.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority took place in September but stalled when Israel's 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement construction expired.