Riyadh pushes for Arab intervention in Gaza

Top Saudi diplomat appears to back Egyptian proposal to send Arab troops to Strip

September 9, 2008 10:22
2 minute read.
Riyadh pushes for Arab intervention in Gaza

al-faisal 88. (photo credit: )

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Monday urged for an Arab push to help end inter-Palestinian rifts and re-establish moderate Palestinian rule in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Prince Saud Al-Faisal's remarks came during a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. The top Saudi diplomat appeared to back an Egyptian proposal to send Arab troops to the coastal strip ruled by the militant faction. "It's about time that the Arab countries take a solid and decisive stance against those who shed Palestinian blood and deepen the Palestinian division," Saud said. "This requires only one Palestinian authority and one government which controls the army and the security forces," he said. He told the Cairo gathering that Palestinian factions have a vested interest in keeping the Gaza dispute ongoing. Egypt last week floated the idea of an Arab troop deployment to Gaza to end Hamas' control and re-establish the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority there. Last week Saud's Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said "this idea is on the table and it should be carefully looked into and studied." "The presence of Arab troops on the ground can help in ending the fighting and halting the Palestinian-Israeli confrontations," Aboul Gheit added. Although Saud did not elaborate on what he meant with a "decisive" stand on Gaza, Arab media have reported that Riyadh shares Egypt's concern about the growing influence Iran _ a Hamas ally _ has in the coastal strip, and that it supports sending an Arab peacekeeping force in. Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups have said they oppose such an idea. Hamas captured control of Gaza in June 2007, routing forces loyal to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The bloody seizure left Gaza's 1.4 million Palestinians largely confined to their narrow strip of land by subsequent Israeli and Egyptian border closures. The move also split Palestinian territory into two, with Abbas' loyalists in charge in the West Bank. It was not clear whether the ministers discussed the troop proposal Monday. Egypt, which shares a border with the Gaza Strip, is mediating talks between the militant group and its rival Fatah, a moderate faction run by Abbas. Cairo plans to host a reconciliation meeting between the two groups after the Islamic month of Ramadan but apparently is looking to first shore up backing for an Arab peacekeeping force before trying to sell it to both factions. In a closed session Abbas briefed the ministers in Cairo later Monday on his peace talks with Israel and the reconciliation efforts. "I made every thing clear to them so that there should be no ambiguity or misunderstanding. They are responsible for the Palestinian cause," Abbas told reporters after his briefing. Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear program was also on the agenda of the Cairo meeting. Saud said Iran should keep its commitment not to develop a nuclear weapons program and that this verbal commitment should "guarantee a quick and peaceful end" to the Iranian nuclear controversy.

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