Arab League for direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

July 30th, 2010 - 12:30 am ICT by IANS  

Cairo, July 29 (DPA) The Arab League laid out its three main conditions Thursday for supporting direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but the group remained doubtful if a stalemate could be broken.
“I assure you I am not of the intention to enter into negotiations without a time frame, without clear references and without monitoring,” Arab League chief Amr Moussa said.

Any future round of direct talks, Moussa told a press conference in Cairo, would be the “final phase” of negotiations.

Sitting besides him was Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, who said a letter spelling out the conditions was sent to the US administration of President Barak Obama.

The Qatari leader said, however, that he was “full of doubts” about Israel’s seriousness regarding final status negotiations.

“Our hope after all these years is for the US to know that we are serious. We do not have guarantees but we have hopes that Obama will take this seriously,” Bin Jassem said at the press conference.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the Arab League meeting that he was ready to begin “direct and genuine” peace negotiations in the coming days.

Direct talks would enable the two sides to reach an agreement, Israeli media quoted him as saying.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday his country had no plans to extend a building freeze in West Bank settlements after September, rejecting one of the Abbas’ primary conditions for moving to direct negotiations.

“There must be a clear Arab position,” Bin Jassem insisted, while outlining the league’s response to the Israeli decision.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked for the meeting to update the Arab League about the stalled peace process, which has so far failed to bring the two sides into direct talks.

Last November, Israel declared a partial and limited 10-month construction freeze, but not including East Jerusalem. Palestinians called this insufficient, but mediation by US envoy George Mitchell resulted in indirect talks getting underway earlier this year.

“There are no convincing justifications to move to direct negotiations amid no progress achieved in the proximity talks,” said Walid Abu Yousef, a politician allied with the Palestinian leader, ahead of the meeting.

The Arab League’s committee on the peace process - a body headed by the Qataris and that includes key diplomats from major Arab states - has supported the US-backed Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks.

The league generally adds a caveat to its position, saying the Palestinians have the final say in their affairs.

However, the committee said it would bring the peace process back to the UN Security Council if the parties were unable to move to direct negotiations by early September. Later that month, the UN General Assembly will also convene in New York.

In 2002, the Arab League backed an initiative - never formally accepted by Israel - they said was designed to move the region towards a peace agreement.

The deal called for Israel withdrawing from all territories occupied in the 1967 war, the establishment of a Palestinian state and a “just solution” to the refugee crisis sparked by the 1948 war.

In return for settling these affairs, the Arab world promised to normalise relations with the Jewish State, as currently only Egypt and Jordan have full diplomatic ties with Israel. Mauritania cut ties in 2009, in the wake of the war in the Gaza Strip, after a decade of relations.

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