Arab leaders revive peace plan at Saudi summit


A resolution reaffirming their commitment to the Saudi-inspired peace plan was adopted by the Arab League heads of state on the first day of their annual summit in the Saudi capital, ministers said.



The blueprint offers Israel full normalisation of relations if it withdraws from all land occupied in the 1967 war and allows the creation of a Palestinian state and the return of Palestinian refugees.



Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit confirmed to AFP that the heads of state adopted all resolutions submitted by their foreign ministers, including relaunching the peace plan.



In the resolution, a copy of which was seen by AFP, the Arab leaders "reaffirm the commitment of all Arab states to the Arab peace initiative as approved at the Beirut summit in 2002 in all its elements."



The Arab leaders will issue a direct call to the Israeli government and people to accept the peace offer and negotiate, according to the resolution which will be made public on Thursday.



They "reaffirm their call to the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept the Arab peace initiative and seize the opportunity to resume the process of direct and serious negotiations on all tracks," the text says.



The resolution also mandated a ministerial committee formed when the peace plan was first adopted to set up working teams to undertake contacts with the UN chief, the UN Security Council, the international Quartet "and parties concerned with the peace process" to seek a resumption of negotiations.



The opening of the two-day summit was marked by a strident attack by Saudi King Abdullah against the presence of its close US ally in Iraq as an "illegitimate foreign occupation," and a warning of civil war.



Several world figures, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon and EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana, attended the opening session in Riyadh, where security was tight as police blocked roads and military helicopters patrolled the skies.



Only Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi has boycotted the summit.



The annual gathering comes after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appealed to Arab states to "begin reaching out to Israel" by building on the 2002 plan.



Israel initially rejected the blueprint, but its leaders have recently spoken of it as a starting point for talks — although they see its insistence on the right of return of Palestinian refugees as a stumbling block.



However Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal warned in an interview with a British newspaper that Israel should not expect any further diplomatic overtures.



"If Israel refuses (the plan), that means it doesn’t want peace and it places everything back in the hands of fate. They will be putting their future not in the hands of the peacemakers but in the hands of the lords of war."



A US push for peace has been complicated by the formation of a Palestinian unity government between Hamas — boycotted as a terrorist group by the West — and the Fatah party of president Mahmud Abbas.



Abbas warned Israel on Tuesday: "If this initiative is destroyed, I do not believe that a better chance for peace will present itself in the near future."



But prime minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas told AFP: "I don’t expect at all that Israel will accept the peace plan."



In the resolutions, the Arab leaders are also expected to call for an end to a Western financial and diplomatic boycott imposed since Hamas first came to power a year ago.



The Palestinians are also seeking 2.7 billion dollars in aid from Arab states, including unpaid pledges.



Another resolution calls for amendments to the Iraqi constitution to give more power to the former Sunni Arab elite, with King Abdullah warning that "ugly sectarianism threatens civil war."



The Saudi monarch also appealed for an end to the "crippling" political crisis in Lebanon, where divisions were highlighted by the presence at the summit of two rival pro- and anti-Syrian delegations.



Saudi-led efforts to break the deadlock have so far failed to yield a breakthrough, but Abdullah held talks on Tuesday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the first time since relations chilled over last year’s Lebanon war and Syrian policy towards its neighbour.



Syria will host the next Arab summit in 2008, the heads of state decided.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *