03/29/2007, 00.00
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Arab League re-launches Saudi initiative for peace with Israel

What happens after from Arabs accept Saudi proposal remains unclear. “Land for peace” is guiding principle. The Jewish state wants to negotiate contents; Arabs want it to accept the proposal as is before negotiations can start. Lebanon is left as “poor cousin” showing off its divisions.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Arab League’s summit in Riyadh can be said to be on “stand-by” as far as the main item on its agenda is concerned, namely re-launching the peace process with Israel based on the principle of “land for peace.”

Under the plan, Arab nations would recognise Israel if Israel withdraws from land occupied in the 1967 War and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital would be created with a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem.

The proposal, which got thumbs up from the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who is at the summit, has been received with great interest in Israel. But whilst the Arabs states said the proposal had to be accepted as it is before negotiations can begin, the Israeli government stated that it views it as a basis to be negotiated. For Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, accepting the proposal as is would pre-empt negotiations. This is a very negative answer for Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit who added though that he did not think it was final one.

The impression left is one that everyone is on “stand-by”, with the dangers that nay-Sayers might raise their voice like Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, who boycotted the summit because of the Saudi proposal, and Iran.

Hamas spokesman in the Palestinian parliament, Salah al-Bardawil, told Haaretz, “We will not agree to recognition of Israel or peace with it. [But] we have no problem with the part of the initiative that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders and the right of refugees to return.” For it is part, Israel remains steadfastly opposed to discussions that would include the refugees’ right of return.

Because of the Israeli-Palestinian issue overshadowing everything, Lebanon’s crisis got little discussion time—hence, Beirut’s French daily L’Orient Le Jour titling today’s edition “Lebanon: Summit’s Poor Cousin”.

Present with two delegations, Lebanon showed in fact its divisions on the international stage, warts and all. But, “democratically-elected” as UN Secretary Ban put it, and pro-Western Prime Minister Fuad Siniora came out better from the meeting. He received the explicit support of the summit.

But pro-Syrian President Émile Lahoud, who headed Lebanon’s official delegation, insisted and got the other participants to change the wording in the documents to recognise that Lebanon was represented by its “state”, not its “government”.

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See also
Some positive moves from Riyadh summit for Israel, not for Lebanon
Arab League delegation visits Israel for the first time
For Livni meeting with foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan was “historic”
Lebanon holds a special place in the Pope's heart, says Siniora
Israeli delegation to travel to Jordan to discuss Arab League peace plan


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