Moussa Abbas 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
CAIRO — Arab nations gave the green light Wednesday for Palestinians to
enter indirect negotiations with Israel for a preliminary four-month
period, a decision that likely breaks the months-long deadlock over
resuming Mideast peace talks.
The United States has proposed
so-called proximity talks to end the impasse between Israelis and
Palestinians over the conditions for resuming negotiations, which broke
down more than a year ago amid Israel's military offensive in the Gaza
The Arab approval gives Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas the political cover he needed to accept the offer. Abbas
has staunchly rejected direct talks unless Israel calls a complete halt
to construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east
Jerusalem — and he had been wary of entering even indirect talks
without Arab backing.
The gathering of 14 Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo agreed.
the lack of conviction in the seriousness of the Israeli side, the
committee sees that it would give the indirect talks the chance as a
last attempt and to facilitate the US role," said Arab League Secretary
General Amr Moussa, reading from a statement.
Moussa said Arab
foreign ministers backed the talks on the condition that they last four
months. "This should not be an open-ended process," he said.
ministers also said the indirect talks, mediated by US officials,
should not turn into direct Israeli-Palestinian talks without a total
freeze in settlement construction.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu instituted a 10-month halt on new construction in the West
Bank in November, but the measure does not include building that was
already started or construction in east Jerusalem, the sector of the
city Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state.
stressed that even indirect negotiations are doomed to failure if
Israeli measures such as settlement construction continue. He warned
that if indirect talks fail to yield results, the Arabs will call for
an emergency Security Council meeting to address the Arab-Israeli
conflict and would ask Washington not to use its veto.
been under strong pressure from US-allied Arab states such as Egypt and
Jordan to accept the American proposal for indirect talks, but the
Palestinian president has told Arab leaders he will not take this step
The statement did not receive the unanimous support of the 14 Arab nations that took part in the meeting.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem interrupted Moussa while he
was reading the statement, insisting that the decision on whether to
join indirect talks or not was up to the Palestinians. "The
Palestinians are better positioned to know what to do," he said.
Government spokesman Mark Regev welcomed the Arab decision.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu has been calling continuously for the
resumption of peace talks and we hope now that the talks can move
forward," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, Egyptian television reported that Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
in a telephone
conversation on Tuesday night that he expected to launch peace
negotiations with the Palestinians without delay.