Israeli Minister Suggests to Invite Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to Discuss His Peace Proposal
Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that he had taken steps to advance a Saudi initiative to restart the peace process, Israel Radio reported. Sharon refused to elaborate, but the comment came after Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit suggested that Crown Prince Abdullah, who is behind the proposal, be invited to Israel to discuss the plan.
This is the first time that Sharon has commented on the Saudi initiative.
In a recent interview with the prestigious New York Times, Prince Abdullah has said he had been ready to push for normalizing Arab relations with Israel if it withdrew from lands captured in the 1967 War. He added that he had changed his mind due to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's measures to quell a Palestinian uprising against occupation, which erupted some 17 months ago.
Saudi sources have said the Arabs would agree to continued Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, and would also accept territorial exchanges between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of "quantitative and qualitative equality."
The United States has meanwhile begun promoting the initiative to restart the peace process and is talking with various parties in the region to iron out its details.
A senior adviser to Abdullah met Friday in Washington with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns. Afterward, Burns met with Israel's ambassador to the United States, David Ivry, who reported on the initiative to Jerusalem.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has welcomed the initiative. Peres attributes great importance to the fact that Saudi Arabia has not only expressed a willingness for full normalization with Israel, but has said it would try to persuade the rest of the Arab world to adopt the same stance.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who will leave for talks Washington at the outset of next month, has prepared an initiative of his own that he presented to CIA chief George Tenet in Cairo last week. Mubarak proposed that he host a meeting between Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and that meetings of the Israeli-Palestinian security committee take place in Egypt.
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has praised a Saudi peace-for-land proposal raised by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz as a "positive" step at a critical time in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Saudi Press Agency said on Saturday.
It said Annan phoned Prince Abdullah on Friday for the Eid Al Adha holiday and hailed his "positive and daring ideas and visions" for peace at this "critical and dangerous time when violence in the region has reached its highest level".
Annan called on Friday for "new thinking" to achieve peace, saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "risks sliding toward full-fledged war".
He also challenged Israeli insistence that violence had to end before negotiations could begin. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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