Arab FMs meet in Damascus as Israel asks to delay ''roadmap'' discussion
Arab foreign ministers kicked off talks in Damascus Wednesday night concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US threats on Iraq. Arab League chief, Amr Moussa and 11 foreign ministers met to discuss a US-backed roadmap for peace that looks to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel by 2005.
The plan, drafted by the diplomatic quartet of the United States, Russia, European Union and the United Nations, has been accepted in principle by the Palestinians, Egypt and Jordan.
Meanwhile, Israeli sources have disclosed details of a modified "roadmap" with support for a sovereign Palestinian state, despite government attempts to delay its official release.
The blueprint to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict calls for an unequivocal commitment by Israel to assist in the creation of an independent Palestinian state, official Israeli sources said Wednesday, according to AFP.
The document also urges an "immediate end to violence against Palestinians anywhere," the source said.
Israel asked the United States Wednesday to delay the release of the long-awaited roadmap until after the Jewish state's scheduled elections in January.
It was not immediately clear whether Israel's request to delay the official announcement of the plan would alter its expected release date of December 20.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky noted debate within Israel on the plan would be complicated if it were set out before the January 28 general election. "At the time of an election campaign in Israel -- in the next two months, until we have elections -- it would be unfortunate if the road map plan will become part of the the political campaign," Sharansky said after meeting US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in Washington.
Sharansky also repeated objections to the plan by Ariel Sharon's right-wing government, including its demand for a halt to Jewish settlements and the timeline it envisions.
An international "quartet" -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and foreign relations commissioner Chris Patten -- is inclined to meet on the roadmap next month.
The new peace plan also stipulates Israel should freeze Jewish settlements, especially in areas that could obstruct Palestinian territorial continuity.
The document urges Israel to "take no action undermining trust, including deportation attacks on civilian or in densely populated areas, confiscation or demolition of Palestinian home and property," Israeli sources said.
It in turn requires Palestinians to recognise Israel's right to exist and an unconditional end to violence against Israelis wherever they may be.
On his part, Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher described the plan as "not perfect." "All parties have reservations about it, including us," he said.
Moasher said the Palestinians, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia had made comments about the "roadmap," which has been modified numerous times since it was launched earlier this year as a basis for a solution to the crisis. "There are some points that are very problematic," he said. (Albawaba.com)
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