Arab League backs indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks

09:43, March 04, 2010      

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by Islam Yehia

Arab foreign ministers agreed on Wednesday during a meeting in Cairo, the seat of the Arab League ( AL), to support four-month indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The foreign ministers also called for setting a time framework for negotiations on the final status solution which, they said, should cover all pending issues, including Israeli settlements, the refugees, borders demarcation and water shares as well as the full withdrawal from the Arab lands occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.

The ministers affirmed that both the Gaza Strip and West Bank must be one integrated unit of a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The resolution rejected Israeli request to make the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state as well as what they called the "unilateral Israeli measures to change the demographic structure of the occupied Palestinian territories."

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said "Supporting indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in a period of four months was approved although we are not convinced over the Israeli willingness to achieve peace."

"The indirect negotiations should not be turned into direct ones automatically ... direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations require stopping all forms of settlements in the occupied lands including Al-Quds (Jerusalem)," Moussa said in statement after two days of talks.

Azzam al-Ahmad, member of Fatah party's central committee, who accompanied Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas in his visit to Egypt, told Xinhua on telephone that the Palestine Liberation Organization ( PLO) and Fatah central committee will convene on Saturday and Sunday to give a final answer to the AL decision.

Al-Ahmad added that the U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell will arrive in the region on Monday next week to receive the Palestinian response to the U.S. proposal on launching indirect peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Tayser Jaradat, a member of the Palestinian delegation to the AL meeting, said "When the four months are over, the Arab League committee would meet again to assess if a progress is made or not. "

Meanwhile, Israel expressed hope that the Arab League's backing for indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks will help re-launch the peace process.

"Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu has been calling for Israeli-Palestinian talks for months, and we hope now the process will start," Mark Regev, the prime minister's foreign press advisor, told Xinhua.

However, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, expressed his country's reservation on the endorsement of indirect negotiations, saying that "The Arab peace initiative follow-up committee doesn't have the authority to approve indirect Israeli- Palestinian peace talks."

Meanwhile, Hamas which rejects any direct peace talks with Israel slammed the AL decision, saying it gives the cover for Israel to continue its plans to Judaize Jerusalem.

"This decision could give a cover to the (Israeli) occupation to go ahead with its projects to Judaize Jerusalem and the Islamic shrines ... It doesn't represent the Palestinian people, so we reject it," said Taher al-Nounou, spokesman for the deposed Hamas government in Gaza.

Prime Minister of deposed Hamas government in Gaza Ismail Haneya said the AL "has to review" its decision which agreed upon a U.S. proposal over launching indirect peace negotiations with Israel for four months.

"We call on the Arab League Committee to review its decision and withdraw it ... the government will never give a green light for either direct or indirect talks as Israel continues its attacks on Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque," Haneya said in a meeting of Hamas lawmakers in Gaza.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since December 2008, as Israel insists on continuing settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Abbas has earlier set freezing Israeli settlement activities in the Palestinian territories as a condition for resuming peace talks with Israel.

Source: Xinhua
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