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Arab League Conditions Direct Talks on US Guarantees

July 30, 2010
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According to Al Jazeera, the Arab League called for written guarantees from the United States before giving the green light to the negotiations. Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general, noted that the issue of Israeli settlements was a particular point of interest regarding the guarantees. US President Barack Obama reportedly already sent a letter with guarantees to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but the Arab League still had questions for the US, which were sent in a letter to the US Embassy in Cairo. Should the US response prove satisfactory, the Arab League is prepared to approve the move to direct talks. Al Jazeera quoted Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdainah as saying, “There is a green light from the Arabs to go to direct negotiations if we receive terms of reference…in line with the letter.”

As for the Americans, the US State Department Web site said that spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters of the Arab letter, “We will be evaluating that letter and undergoing further consultations in the next few days.” He later explained further, “The Arab League Committee has forwarded to us some ideas on how they think negotiations should proceed. Ultimately the decisions remain with the parties to agree to formally start the negotiations.

“We will be consulting with the parties and with leaders in the region in the coming days. I think we are hopeful that coming out of the meeting there will be some momentum that will result in the decision to actually formally start these direct negotiations. Those are decisions that have yet to be made, but I think we’re encouraged by what we’ve heard today coming out of Cairo.”

Crowley said they were hopeful direct talks can begin soon, but again said that “we do not want to have preconditions to the start of negotiations.” He did say that they needed to have discussions with “a variety of players” regarding the parameters of the peace talks, including “timeframes” involved. The Jerusalem Post noted that Moussa cited the need for a time limit for the talks.  

Abbas was quoted by Al Jazeera as still demanding a complete halt to Israeli construction in the settlements and East Jerusalem. In a comment made before the Arab League meeting, Abbas said, “When I receive written assurances [about] accepting the 1967 borders and halting settlement [building], I will go immediately to the direct talks.” The Jerusalem Post reported that after the Arab League meeting senior Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan was still demanding that PA conditions be met before direct talks begin.

According to Haaretz, Palestinian sources prior to the Arab League meeting claimed that Abbas wants an American guarantee that the negotiations would include a declaration that the Palestinian state would be based on the 1967 borders with agreed-upon land swaps. That would mean the basis for talks which would grant the Palestinians the entire West Bank [Judea and Samaria], Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, with adjustments made by exchanging other territory in Israel for land in those regions.  

Israel agreed to a partial 10-month settlement freeze in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] that is due to expire in September, although they have so far refused to extend the moratorium to East Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called for direct talks without preconditions, but those requests appear to have fallen on deaf ears. This despite the fact that direct talks were conducted between Abbas and former-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with no official settlement freeze.

Al Jazeera said the Arab League did agree to the way in which the direct talks will be conducted and the principles of the topics to be discussed, according to Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, the Qatari foreign minister.

Posted on July 30, 2010

Source: (By Joshua Spurlock, BFP Israel Mosaic Radio, July 29, 2010)

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