04/19/2007, 00.00
ISRAEL – ARAB LEAGUE

Israeli delegation to travel to Jordan to discuss Arab League peace plan

Arab League tasks Jordan and Egypt to convince Jewish State to accept its plan. It will ask the UN, US, EU and Russia to back its initiative. Israel confirms its interest in the plan, but rejects any diktat.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Israel and Arab states are making some noises, albeit only about discussing ways to consider the Saudi peace initiative adopted by the Arab League in its March summit.

Yesterday 13 Arab League foreign ministers (from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and Palestine) asked Egypt and Jordan to contact Israel and try to persuade its leaders to accept the Arab peace plan and start direct talks.

Knesset Speaker and acting head of state Dalia Yitzik travelled today to Jordan on King Abdallah’s invitation. The chairman and many members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee went as well.

Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the Arab initiative was a first sign of understanding of Israel by the Arabs. He noted that although the “road remains long and our enemies are many, [. . .] there are also first signs of developments that point to the chance that in the coming year we will manage to make progress towards resolving the conflicts with our neighbours, especially with the Palestinians.”

The Saudi plan includes the recognition of Israel by the members of the Arab League in exchange for the return of the territories Israel occupied in the 1967 War, the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee problem.

The Israeli government expressed interest in the Saudi proposal and Prime Minister Olmert announced that he was willing to discuss it with any country. However, he also responded to the Arab demand that the proposal must be accepted “as is” by saying that for him it was but a basis for negotiations. Similarly, accepting the proposal as is would pre-empt negotiations, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres had said earlier.

Israel Army Radio announced that the Israeli delegation to Amman will convey Israel’s willingness to examine in detail the Saudi plan, but insisted that the Jewish State would not “accept any diktat.”

As part of its initiative, the Arab League has also set up an eight-member working group to make broader contacts with the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, and Russia in order to drum up support for the Saudi plan.

Similarly, the United States is trying to organise a summit between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and others, Olmert said yesterday. (PD)

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