Syria Rejects Making Changes to Saudi Peace Initiative

Syrian gov't newspaper says rejects changing initiative in accordance with 'Israeli and American interests.'

Syria on Wendesday voiced opposition to changing the Saudi peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League five years ago and cast doubts over Israel's willingness to make peace in region.

The Arab League is expected during its annual summit in Saudi Arabia later this month to focus on the possible revival of the 2002 initiative to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Syria cautioned against making changes to the initiative saying it "absolutely rejected for some hostile fingers to toy, directly or through brokers, with the agenda of the [upcoming] summit so that its decisions would come in harmony with the Israeli and American interests," the Tishrin government newspaper reported in a front-page editorial.

On Sunday, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said in a speech during an Arab foreign ministers meeting in Egypt that the Arab peace initiative "expressed an Arab consensus and will not be redrafted as demanded by some foreign powers."

Senior government sources told Haaretz last week that Israel expects the Arab League to adopt a revised version of the plan during the Riyadh summit.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni presented Israel's demands last Thursday, saying "It is impossible for Israel to accept the Arab peace initiative in its current formulation."

First and foremost, she said, Israel objects to the document's section on the Palestinian refugees, which was not part of the initial Saudi draft, but was added at the 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut.

The new article inserted at the 2002 Beirut summit, however, demanded a "just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194," and that resolution calls for allowing the refugees to return to Israel.

It therefore contradicts Israel's vision of a two-state solution, which, explained Livni, calls for a Jewish national homeland alongside a Palestinian national homeland, with the latter serving as the solution for the Palestinian refugees.