Saudi proposal a pillar for peace, says UN Chief


“We must build upon these good principles,” he said. The Saudi plan is to be discussed later this month at the Arab League summit in Riyadh.
Ban, who is preparing for his first trip to the Middle East as UN chief, told VOA he is generally encouraged by recent Middle East developments. He pointed in particular to the Makkah agreement that led to formation of a Palestinian national unity government.

At the same time, the secretary-general said he was disappointed at news that the Palestinian coalition has not endorsed the three basic peace principles set down by the Middle East Quartet.

Among the key stops on his 10-day visit will be Riyadh, where a 2002 Saudi Arabian peace proposal will be reconsidered. It offers Israel full recognition by Arab States and permanent peace in return for a withdrawal to pre-1967 borderlines, the establishment of an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a return of Palestinian refugees to lands lost in the 1967 war.

Both Israeli and American officials have recently noted that it contains positive elements. Secretary-General Ban says the Saudi plan has the potential to move forward the long-stalled peace process.

“It is encouraging that Americans and Israelis are now trying to revisit this Arab peace process. I know that there are still reservations shared by Israelis. But one cannot always be fully satisfied with one or two agreements. We must build upon these good principles,” he said.

As UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon leads one of the members of the Quartet, which also includes the United States, Russia and the European Union. His visit to the region coincides with a similar trip by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In addition to his stop in Saudi Arabia, the secretary-general’s 10-day Middle East trip will take him to Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Notably, he will not visit two other regional players, Syria or Iran. The U.N. chief also says he hopes to convene a meeting of the full Middle East Quartet sometime in April.

Saudi plan

Israel is required to withdraw from all territories seized in 1967 – the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

In return, all Arab states offer normal diplomatic relations – including a peace deal that recognizes Israel’s right to exist and secures its borders.

The plan was formally announced at an Arab League summit in Beirut in March 2003.

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