Israeli minister calls for regional peace plan

October 20th, 2008 - 12:44 am ICT by IANS  

Tel Aviv, Oct 19 (DPA) Israel should come up with a comprehensive regional peace initiative similar to that presented by Saudi Arabia in 2002, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday.Israel, he told Israel Army Radio, shared a “deep common interest” with moderate Arab countries regarding Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

“There is definitely room to present an overall Israeli plan against that of the Saudis, so there can be a basis for discussion on a comprehensive regional peace,” he said.

He said Israeli President Shimon Peres agreed with him, and he had also discussed the matter with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is currently trying to put together a new government to succeed that of Ehud Olmert, who resigned last month.

“I received the impression that there is readiness to examine any path, this one included,” he said.

The Saudi peace initiative calls for Arab recognition of Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal from the territories captured in the 1967 war.

The Arab League backed the plan, but Israel, while not rejecting it outright, expressed reservations on some of its clauses, especially the demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendents return to the homes they abandoned in what is now Israel during the 1948-49 Arab Israeli war.

Although Israel is currently negotiating with the Palestinian Authority and Israeli leaders have begun speaking of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the Jewish state hopes to retain some of the occupied West Bank, where large blocks of settlements are located.

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