Arabs won’t wait decades for Israeli response to Arab Peace Initiative: GCC


Al-Attiya had met earlier today with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, vice-president Farouq al-Sharaa, minister of foreign afffairs Waleed al-Muallem and minister of economy and trade Amer Lutfi with whom he discussed, among other things, means of solidifying GCC-Syrian ties.


The top GCC official described relations between Syria and the GCC as exemplary and firmly-rooted in a common history.


Al-Attiya noted that his talks with president al-Assad focused in the main on the situation in Palestine, Iraq, and the peace process with the emphasis on the viability of the Arab peace initiative that had been pounded out at the Riyadh Arab summit which took place in Saudi Arabia last March.


He urged Israel to reciprocate expeditiously to the Arab peace initiative, since the Arabs were in no mood to wait interminably to some kind of a reaction from the Israelis. Israel’s response to the initiative should be forthcoming as quickly as possible in view of the fact that the spirit of the initiative ensures that the interests of the Arabs and the Israelis remain intact, he said.


His talks with al-Assad, he went on, affirmed the imperative to support the Palestinian national unity government and to strive hard to have the siege imposed on the Palestinian people lifted.


Furthermore, Al-Attiya, while giving credit to Syria’s important political role in the region, undelined that he was against attempts at disparaging that role and upheld Syria’s demand for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights as part of an overall Arab-Israeli peace settlement.


With regard to Syrian-Lebanese relations, the top GCC official indicated the special ties between the two nations and noted that the GCC condoned the work of the international tribunal in bringing to conclusion the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Having the al-Hariri case wrapped up by the tribunal would be greatly conducive to a state of peace and stability in Lebanon, he assured.


He said that it was his impression that Syria sought to keep the region clear of any crisis be that related to the situation in Iraq or to the Iranian nuclear issue.


On the Sharm El-Sheikh conference for neighboring states of Iraq, al-Attiya noted that what was crucial in Iraq was a number of challenges, among them keeping the territorial integrity of Iraq intact, emphasizing the country’s cultural make-up, and striving to avert foreign intervention in Iraq’s internal affairs.


All in all, he said, the current turmoil in Iraq required political and security solutions more than anything else. Iraq, he averred, deserved at this juncture in its history, to enact Iraqi national conciliation, to ensure that the constitution preserves the rights of all Iraqi citizens, to disburse the nation’s wealth equitably among all population sectors of the nation, to dismantle all active militias, and to lay down a clear-cut distinction between what is considered an act of terrorism and what is considerd an act of resistance.


On his expectations regarding the upcoming meeting between US secretary of state Condoleezz Rice and the Iranian envoy to the Sharm El-Sheik conference, al-Attiya said he had no idea if a meeting between these two officials would take place at the conference.


Al-Attiya made a reference to the talks he had had here with Syrian officials regarding the establishment of a GCC-Syrian free trade zone, saying that all that was left to enact the trade zone was for both sides to officially sign an agreement on it, which, he said, would take place soon.


The free trade zone agreement, he indicated, aimed at facilitating the movement of consumer goods between Syria and GCC states through tariff reductions or eliminations, and permitting the bilateral practice of insurance and communication and transportation services.


Once officially established, the free trade zone should lead to a spike in commerical activity between both sides, to achieving higher economic growth rates, and to speeding up bilateral investments, he estimated.

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