Arabs open to Palestine talks; VP says region has no option but to face its challenges by itself
Arab leaders said at the end of a summit in Amman on Wednesday that they would be ready to have a historic reconciliation with Israel in return for its withdrawal from land it occupied in the 1967 war.
A communique read by the secretary-general of the Arab League said Arab states would back Palestinian-Israeli peace talks to end the decades-old conflict if it guaranteed the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Arab leaders have reaffirmed a 2002 peace plan that offers Israel normal ties if it cedes lands it captured in the 1967 Mideast war to a future Palestinian state.
The statement said that “peace is a strategic option” for the Arab world, based on a two-state solution – Palestine in the pre-1967 lines – alongside Israel.
It also urged countries around the world not to move their diplomatic missions in Israel to occupied Jerusalem, a signal to President Donald Trump who said in the past he would move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
The Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, occupied in 1967, as a future capital. The Arab leaders looked to unite against “foreign interference” in regional crises, including the devastating wars in Syria and Yemen.
The next summit will be held in Saudi Arabia.
Jordan’s King Abdullah suggested that failing to come together would expose the region open to outside influence. “We need to take the initiative to find solutions to all the challenges we face in order to avoid foreign interference in our affairs,” he said.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, called on the region to rearrange its priorities.
“Our region has no option but to face its challenges by itself and band together on a realistic vision to rearrange its priorities and shape its future,” he tweeted.
“We have a lot of hope in the region but need to make use of our resources and manpower. We need to not only put out the region’s fires, but also focus on common opportunities,” Sheikh Mohammed added.
Arab leaders have been unable to find common ground on how to end Syria’s conflict, which in six years has killed more than 320,000 people and forced millions from their homes.
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, said his country supported a political settlement to the conflict in Syria based on UN Security Council resolutions.
In a short speech, the Saudi king said the Syrian people were subjected to “killing and displacement”.
Arab League head Ahmed Abul Gheit said he regretted the fact member states were watching “events in Syria without the possibility of intervening”, calling the conflict “shameful”.
Visiting a refugee camp in Jordan ahead of the summit, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for differences to be set aside.
“Arab unity is a very important element in order to allow this region to be stabilised and for…the Syrian refugees to find again a future that corresponds to their aspirations,” he said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told leaders he would refuse to accept “temporary or regional” attempts to solve the conflict.
Since taking office in January, Trump has sent mixed signals over how he will address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including a break with decades of US policy by saying he would be open to a one-state solution if it meant peace.
Abbas is expected to visit the White House next month, after a visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, scheduled for April 3. Abdullah is also expected in Washington soon.
Jordanian officials have stressed fighting “terrorism” as a major theme of the summit, in particular the threat from Daesh which is facing US-backed offensives in Iraq and Syria.
“Arab and Muslim countries must unite their efforts to combat terrorism,” Abdullah said in his address.
Addressing the summit, Sisi said it was “regrettable that certain powers are benefiting from the unprecedented situation in the region to bolster their influence and expand their control” – an apparent reference to Iran’s role in the conflicts.
Meanwhile, a senior Israeli Cabinet minister has said the Arab summit’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reflects “the many challenges faced by the Arab world.”
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz says the Palestinian issue should not be ignored. But he says the Arab world should not lose sight of “strategic regional challenges,” including Iran, the Islamic State group and crises in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.