Jerusalem Committee Meets as Mideast Peace Process Enters Crucial Phase
Ministers from Islamic countries meeting Monday in Agadir were expected to reaffirm their backing for Palestinian sovereignty over the eastern sector of Jerusalem, the main obstacle to a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.
The 18th meeting of the Jerusalem committee, presided over by Moroccan King Mohammed VI, comes as Egypt and the United States are intensifying efforts to bring the Palestinians and Israelis closer to an accord ahead of a September 13 deadline following the failure of the Camp David peace summit last month.
Israel is reportedly nervous that the committee will go further than its previous declarations by, for example, banning Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from making any concessions on the city.
Israel's Yediot Aharonot newspaper said Monday Prime Minister Ehud Barak had expressed hope that pressure by Israel and the United States intended to prevent Arab states from taking "extremist" decisions -- that would make it hard for the Palestinians to soften their positions.
"We hope that many Arab nations will use this occasion to express their desire for peace and that the work of the Al-Quds (Jerusalem) committee will be constructive for the peace process," foreign ministry spokesman Noam Katz said Monday.
The Jerusalem Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which meets at foreign ministerial level, was created in 1975 to help free east Jerusalem from Israeli control and to preserve its Islamic and Arab heritage.
The Palestinians want sovereignty over east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they have vowed to declare this year.
Also to take part in today's talks in Agadir were six bishops representing various Christian denominations, who aimed to emphasize east Jerusalem's importance as a holy site for the Christian faith.
The top Islamic official for Jerusalem, the Grand Mufti, said Sunday on his arrival in Morocco that the Committee should "reaffirm Palestinian attachment to the holy city so that Christians and Muslims can practice their religions there in freedom and peace" -- AGADIR, Morocco (AFP)
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