Israeli leaders welcome Saudi peace proposal

November 13th, 2008 - 7:05 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Nov 13 (DPA) Israeli President Shimon Peres and Deputy Prime Minister Tzipi Livni publicly endorsed Saudi Arabia’s peace initiative to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a UN General Assembly meeting Wednesday.Peres went out of his way by addressing Saudi King Abdullah directly during assembly’s debate on how values of religion and peace can help settle political and armed conflict. But while Peres and Livni stressed the importance of the Saudi initiative, the king did not mention it in his address.

Peres and Livni said in a press conference at UN headquarters in New York that they “sensed” a new atmosphere and “perception of change” in the attitude of the Saudis, whose enormous influence on the Palestinians could foster a peace settlement. They said Arab countries are now speaking in a “totally different voice”.

“The Saudis sent an important and crucial message,” Livni said. But she pointed out, however, that Israel wants to see and hear changes in rhetoric in houses of prayers and schools, where anti- Israeli sentiments remain high.

Peres and Livni said they have had direct contact with Abdullah in the past and played down the significance of their attendance at meetings in the same room or sitting at the same table for meals. Abdullah and Peres both attended a dinner at the invitation of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday.

Peres said in an address to the 192-nation assembly on the issue of religion and peace that King Abdullah’s peace initiative emphasized diplomacy over a military solution and that a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is “the strategic option of the Arab countries.”

“This is Israel’s strategy as well,” Peres said.

“These expression in the Arab peace initiative are inspirational and promising - a serious opening for real progress,” he said.

Peres said the comprehensive settlement requires the completion of bilateral negotiations with Palestinians and “sharing the painful cost.”

“We are ready for this as we have proved many times in the past,” he said.

Peres was attending the two-day assembly session on religion and peace at UN headquarters in New York. He was joined by the kings of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain, and the emirs of Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. A total of 70 governments, many with delegations headed by presidents and prime ministers, were in attendance.

Abdullah, whose kingdom has been criticized for human rights violations, told the assembly that “human beings were created as equals and partners on this planet; either they live in peace and harmony, or they will inevitably be consumed by the flames of misunderstanding, malice and hatred.”

Abdullah spoke against terrorism and criminality as enemies of religion and civilization. He made no mention of the Mideast peace process.

The king has been one of the strongest promoters for the dialogue among cultures, religions and civilizations.

“I can assure all states of the world, their peoples, their leaders and their organizations that our concern for dialogue stems from out Islamic faith and values, and our compassion for the human conditions, in order to overcome the miseries,” he said.

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