Arab leaders condemn Israel's settlement activity

Published March 27th, 2010 - 03:17 GMT

Regional leaders meeting in Libya were united in their condemnation of Israel's settlement activity in occupied Palestinian land. The Arab League summit commenced on Saturday in the Libyan city of Sirte, with Amr Moussa, the Arab League chief, warning that continued Israeli settlement building would end efforts to revive the Middle East peace process.


"We have to study the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure," Moussa said in his opening speech to the two-day annual summit. "It's time to face Israel ... We have accepted an open-ended peace process but that resulted in a loss of time and we did not achieve anything and allowed Israel to practise its policy for 20 years."


Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, reiterated that Israel's settlements were illegal under international law, and called for Jerusalem to be part of peace negotiations. "Jerusalem's significance to all must be respected, and it should emerge from negotiations as the capital of two states," he said at the meeting's opening session.


Ban also called for Arab leaders to support US-led efforts to facilitate indirect "proximity" talks between Israel and the Palestinians. "I urge you to support efforts to start proximity talks and direct negotiations. Our common goal should be to resolve all final status issues within 24 months," Ban said.


But Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, ruled out taking part in the talks unless Israel stops building settlements. "We cannot resume indirect negotiations as long as Israel maintains its settlement policy and the status quo," he said in his speech.


The warnings over Jerusalem were echoed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, who called Israel's policy of considering Jerusalem as its united capital "madness". "Jerusalem is the apple of the eye of each and every Muslim ... and we cannot at all accept any Israeli violation in Jerusalem or in Muslim sites," he said.


Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, whose country is hosting the summit, opened the summit with an unusually short speech in which he said that Arabs were "waiting for actions, not words and speechs".


Gaddafi has said he wants the meeting to be one of unity.


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