Arab foreign ministers on Thursday agreed to relaunch the Arab peace initiative in its current form, despite earlier suggestions by the Syrian minister that the initiative could be rethought. "We agreed on maintaining the Arab peace initiative and there is no intention on the ministers' part to amend it," Mohammed Sobeih, Arab League assistant secretary general for Palestinian affairs, told reporters.
"It was also agreed that the initiative will be relaunched to the international community in order to stress Arab concern for finding a solution to the Arab Israeli conflict," Sobeih said, according to AFP. At the opening of the ministers meeting in Damascus earlier on Thursday, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem hinted at the possibility of reconsidering the initiative if Israel did not prove its intention to establish peace in the Middle East.
"We believe in a just and comprehensive peace but Israel, which is supported by the United States, is still unable to show a political will to create peace," Muallem told delegations of the 22-member Arab League. "Therefore we support what came out of our meeting in Cairo which is to study Arab options for the strategy of peace," he said.
The initiative, first adopted at a Beirut summit in 2002, offers Israel normalisation of relations and comprehensive peace agreements with Arab countries in exchange for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all the occupied territories.
In Jordan, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Thursday rejected any plans to "amend or change" the peace initiative, after talks with King Abdullah II in Amman. "We have stressed our position more than once in the past. There is no way to amend or change the initiative," a palace statement quoted Abbas as saying.
"We should defend the initiative and fight for it because it is valuable and the other side (Israel) should accept it without any amendments or changes."