Arab countries including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia may propose repackaging the 2002 Saudi peace initiative, Arab diplomats said Monday in private discussions.
The leaders were seeking fresh ways to moderate their position without being seen as giving in to Israeli or American demands to change the offer, said the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister suggested Monday that Arab leaders would be willing to consider changes in their 2002 peace offer to Israel to make it compatible with new developments.
Under the repackaging plan, the Arab leaders would insist Israel accept the initiative in principle before returning to any talks, but would also agree that the Palestinians and Arab countries would be ready to soften their conditions once negotiations began, the diplomats said.
Following a meeting of Arab foreign minsiters in Saudi Arabia on Monday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdelelah al-Khatib said the proposal would be presented without any changes.
"The Arabs have agreed to reactivate the Arab initiative without changes," al-Khatib told Reuters. "We reiterated that all Arab nations will adhere to the initiative as it is."
The offer, initiated in 2002 by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, offers Israel recognition and permanent peace with all Arab countries in return for full Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. It also calls for setting up a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and allowing Palestinian refugees to return to former homes in Israel.
Israel rejects full withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and it strongly opposes the influx of large numbers of Palestinian refugees into its territory.
Jordan urges Israel to respond positively to planMeanwhile, Jordan's King Abdullah II urged Israel on Monday to respond positively to the Arab peace plan, saying Israel and the Palestinians should seize the moment to make peace.
Abdullah made the comments during talks with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is touring the region urging Arab leaders to amend their plan so it can be a basis for a new push for the peace process.
The public words from Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal regarding possible changes to the initiative came as Arab League foreign ministers convened in Saudi Arabia Monday to prepare for a leaders summit expected to focus on how to revive Middle East peace efforts.
Arab leaders have, until now, publicly rejected Israeli calls for them to make changes to a 2002 Arab peace offer, as a first step toward ending the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
But al-Faisal, in his opening remarks, suggested change was under consideration.
"It is expected from us to take notice of new developments, which require additions and developments in whatever is offered from our leaders about the issues and problems - in order for our resolutions to be compatible with what is dire and new," al-Faisal said.
"The kingdom is keen that this summit should come out with one Arab voice toward issues of destiny and in particular the Palestinian issue," he said.
Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Meshal, told Saudi officials Sunday that his party would not oppose the Arab Peace initiative, which is expected to be reaffirmed during the Arab League summit in Riyadh this weekend.
However, the Palestinian unity government does not intend to announce its official support for the initiative and will make due with the kind of statements made during the Mecca agreement, in the form of "commitment to the Arab decisions."
PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who will accompany Abbas to the summit in Riyadh, is not expected to express his support for the initiative.
Meanwhile Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he is unaware of a new peace initiative being proposed by the U.S.
Rice said Sunday that the U.S. is planning to hold separate talks with Israel and the PA aimed at achieving an accord that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now