Arabs agree to relaunch Middle East peace plan




“We agreed on maintaining the Arab peace initiative and there is no intention on the ministers’ part to amend it,” Mohamed Sobeih, Arab League assistant secretary general for Palestinian affairs, told reporters.



“It was also agreed that the initiative will be relaunched to the international community in order to stress Arab concern for finding a solution to the Arab Israeli conflict,” Sobeih said.


Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs HE Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmoud asserted that there was common agreement on all items on the tabled items on the agenda.


At the opening of the ministers meeting in Damascus earlier yesterday, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem hinted at the possibility of reconsidering the initiative if Israel did not prove its intention to establish peace in the Middle East.


“We believe in a just and comprehensive peace but Israel, which is supported by the US, is still unable to show a political will to create peace,” Muallem told delegations of the 22-member Arab League.
“Therefore we support what came out of our meeting in Cairo which is to study Arab options for the strategy of peace,” he said.


Earlier this month, the Arab foreign ministers meeting in the Egyptian capital said the “continuation of the Arab side to offer the Arab initiative for peace will be linked to Israel’s fulfilment of its obligations in the context of international texts for achieving peace in the region.”


The initiative, first proposed at a Beirut summit in 2002, offers Israel normalisation of relations and comprehensive peace agreements with Arab countries in exchange for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all the occupied territories.


In Jordan, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas yesterday rejected any plans to “amend or change” the peace initiative, after talks with King Abdullah II in Amman.


“We have stressed our position more than once in the past. There is no way to amend or change the initiative,” a palace statement quoted Abbas as saying.


“We should defend the initiative and fight for it because it is valuable and the other side (Israel) should accept it without any amendments or changes.” Earlier, Nimr Hammad, an adviser to Abbas, said the Palestinians objected to withdrawing the Arab initiative.


“We do not support withdrawing the Arab initiative because this would give Israel excuses and would weaken our position,” Hammad said.


“If this happens, the headlines will say that Arabs refuse peace,” he said.


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