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Updated: December 16, 2010 18:46 IST

Arab countries demand “serious offer” for resumption of peace talks

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Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, left and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani talk during the emergency session of the Arab Initiative Follow Up Committee at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Wednesday. Photo: AP.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, left and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani talk during the emergency session of the Arab Initiative Follow Up Committee at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Wednesday. Photo: AP.

Arab foreign ministers rejected the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks without a “serious offer” to end the conflict at a committee meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, Egyptian news agencies reported on Thursday.

“Resuming negotiations is conditional upon receiving a serious offer that guarantees an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” the ministers said in a statement read by Arab League chief Amr Moussa late Wednesday.

The statement came after a meeting which lasted several hours between Arab League’s follow-up committee for the peace process, comprising Arab foreign ministers, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The committee believes that “the direction of talks has become ineffective and it has decided against the resumption of negotiations,” Mr. Moussa added.

Direct talks between Israel and Palestine began in early September but fell apart within a month, after Israel refused to renew a 10-month partial moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank.

Wednesday’s meeting came amidst a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed to revive the peace talks, spearheaded by U.S. envoy George Mitchell days after the U.S. abandoned its efforts to secure a 90-day settlement freeze from Israel.

The committee said it would take the issue of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to the UN Security Council.

Their goal is to obtain a Security Council resolution “that confirms...the illegal nature of this activity and that would oblige Israel to stop it,” the statement said.

The follow-up committee and Mr. Abbas have called upon the U.S., which holds veto power in the council, not to block such a resolution.

The Palestinians are adamant that negotiations with Israel will not resume until settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem stops.

“Any negotiations or talks require an end to settlement activities,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday, after Mr. Abbas and Mr. Mitchell held talks in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

U.S. efforts to secure a renewed settlement freeze from Israel by offering lucrative incentive packages failed, and the State Department announced a “change of tactics” last week.

The U.S. says it remains committed to a two-state solution, and will work to “close the gaps” between the two sides so that direct talks can be re-launched and a framework agreement on core issues is reached.

The core issues of the conflict are Israeli security, the borders of a future Palestinian state, the issue of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital.

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