Egyptian FM: No Changes to Be Made to Saudi Plan Before Riyadh Summit

Israeli diplomatic source: Arab states unwilling to abandon call for Palestinian refugees to return to Israel.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Wednesday that the Saudi peace initiative would not be subject to changes before the Riyadh Summit scheduled for the end of March. He added that the Egyptians expected Israel to accept the initiative and thereby promote the peace process.

Aboul Gheit's comments complement those of his Saudi counterpart, Saud al-Faisal and of Syrian Vice President Farouk Shara, both of whom have stated they would not accept revisions to the initiative, as requested by Israel.

On Wednesday, Aboul Gheit met with his Saudi and Jordanian counterparts in Amman, where they discussed details pertaining to the summit and their political stance regarding U.S. involvement in the peace process.

A senior Israeli diplomatic source said Wednesday that the Arab leaders felt they could not disregard UN resolution 194, calling for the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes. Therefore, the source estimated the Arab nations would resist making changes requested by Israel to the initiative's refugee clause.

The source explained that if the Arab nations were to change the initiative, they would alienate the Palestinian leadership and serve Iran's claims that it better represents the interests of the Palestinians than the leaders of the Arab League. "The Arab nations tend to foster more radical positions when they act collectively in comparison to the independent positions," the source added.

Also Wednesday, the EU foreign policy chief said the European Union supported Syria's goal of regaining the Golan Heights from Israel. He said this after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.

"We would like to see Syria recuperate the territory taken in 1967," Javier Solana told a joint news conference. Solana also met with President Bashar al-Assad, on what was the first high-level visit by an EU official to Syria in more than two years.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz met in New York on Wednesday with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for talks that focused on the ongoing weapons smuggling into southern Lebanon the fate of abducted Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

"Security Council Resolution 1701 is not complete so long as the abducted soldiers have not returned home and the arms smuggling from Syria to Lebanon continues," said Peretz.

In response, Ban stressed the UN's commitment to fully implementing the resolution. "I am aware of the Israeli concern regarding the Syrian-Lebanese border," he said.