(photo credit: AP)
Egypt on Thursday rejected Israel's call for Arab states to make peace before the Palestinian issue is solved, saying Israel must accept the land-for-peace formula.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had called Wednesday for Arab states to establish diplomatic relations with Israel without waiting for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She added that Israel would not accept the peace plan known as the Arab peace initiative, saying that its endorsement of the right of return for displaced Palestinians had to be dropped.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters Thursday that Livni's demands would not be well received.
"The Arab states will never accept this because the (diplomatic relations) issue is based on the land-for-peace offer. Therefore, the logic of the Arab initiative is that Israel must first withdraw from the occupied Arab lands, there will be an agreement for the Palestinians to establish their state and, parallel to that, peace (with Israel) will be achieved," Aboul Gheit said.
While Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively, and regained territory lost in war accordingly, most Arab states have insisted on a solution to the Palestinian problem before recognizing Israel.
Aboul Gheit referred to the pan-Arab gathering in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this month, which is expected to relaunch the Arab peace initiative that was first endorsed by the Arab League in 2002.
"The Arab initiative will not be amended, and the decisions of the March 28-29 Arab summit will endorse it as it is, but some Arab countries might wish to relaunch it with a stronger attempt to explain to the world the Arab point of view," Aboul Gheit said.
The initiative offers Israel full recognition and permanent peace with the Arab states in return for Israel's withdrawal to 1967 lines, the establishment of an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and "an agreed, just solution" to the issue of Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948.
Aboul Gheit said that when UN Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits the region next month, he would like her "to give us a clear explanation of the political horizon" of the peace process.
The foreign minister added that the formation of the new Palestinian Cabinet of national unity - which was unveiled Thursday - would enable the Palestinians to speak to Israel with one voice.