Amr Moussa 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa urged Israel on Sunday to accept a 2002 Arab peace initiative as a basis for peace negotiations, and insisted that Arab leaders meeting in Saudi Arabia later this week will not alter the proposal's land-for-peace offer.
Speaking to reporters, Moussa rejected what some Arab leaders have seen as a hint from US officials, including US Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice, that Arab countries should normalize relations with Israel as a start for the resumption of peace talks.
"We see nothing but (calls for) normalization.... It cannot materialize unless there are reciprocal moves," Moussa said.
The United States has been urging Arab leaders behind the scenes to make changes to the proposal, as has Israel, Arab diplomats have said in recent days. But so far, most Arab leaders have publicly dismissed that idea, saying the offer stands as is.
Moussa's comments made clear he agreed, but also hinted that Arab leaders would be willing to negotiate on some points if Israel showed interest in the plan.
"If Israel accepts the basis of the initiative, there will be negotiations and a peace process," Moussa said. "Otherwise, the initiative will not be amended."
Israel in the past has rejected the plan outright. But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday it could provide the basis for renewed talks with Arab moderates - a sign of Israel's tentative interest as other avenues toward peace have faltered recently.
Egyptian and Saudi leaders have said they want the offer to stand as is, and Syrian Vice President Farouk al Sharaa has been touring Arab countries urging no changes.
But Jordan's King Abdullah II, a key partner in the peace efforts, has called for "Arab consensus on moving the peace process forward" - widely interpreted as a sign of flexibility on Israeli demands.
Earlier Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal also reiterated there would be no changes to the initiative before it is taken up by Arab leaders at their summit here later this week.