Livni Blair 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel will "be happy to attend" the US-sponsored meeting later this year in Washington even if Syria is invited, a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said Monday.
The official was responding to statements made Sunday by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicating that Syria, which both Israeli and US officials have in recent weeks hinted would not be welcomed at the conference, would indeed be invited.
"We have stated very clearly that the Americans are the hosts of the conference, they are the ones issuing the invitations, and they are the ones who will define the parameters of the meeting," the official said. "We will be happy to show up with whomever they see fit."
Rice, speaking at a press conference following a meeting of the Quartet in New York on Sunday, said that while invitations to the meeting have not been sent yet, "it's only natural that we would hope that the participants would include the members of the Arab Follow-up Committee, because that is the committee that has been charged by the Arab League with following up with the international community on the Arab Peace Initiative."
Syria is a member of this committee, along with Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the Palestinians and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.
The signal to Syria that it would be invited came the same day that a Syrian official in Damascus was quoted as saying that Israel's alleged raid against Syria earlier in the month had ended chances of resuming negotiations with Israel. The official, according to Reuters, also said "Syria was wary of retaliating" for the attack because of Israel's "military superiority" and because of "lack of Arab support."
"After this raid, you can forget about peace. It is no secret that our forces have been on alert for some time, but Syria will not be the first to start a war," one official was quoted as saying.
Rice pointedly deflected questions regarding reported Syrian attempts to gain a nuclear capacity, saying only that the US "has made no secret of its concerns about proliferation in general."
She said she would not speak about anything specific.
The alleged incident in Syria is expected to come up on Tuesday in discussions on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After jettisoned IAF fuel tanks were allegedly found on the Turkish side of its border with Syria, the Turks protested to Israel about a violation of their airspace.
Livni, in New York for a packed week of meetings with world leaders at the UN General Assembly meeting, is also expected to meet her colleagues Tuesday from Egypt and Finland.
Livni, in addition to attending a protest across from the UN against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday, also addressed a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liason Committee, a committee headed by Norway that was set up in 1993 to provide financial aid to the Palestinians.
At that meeting Livni said that a Palestinian state was an "Israeli interest," and that "we have gathered here with the common purpose of helping to build the foundations of the Palestinian state." But, she added, "Just as a Palestinian state is an Israeli interest, so Israeli security must be a Palestinian interest. And while we must seek to improve economic conditions and quality of life, we cannot afford to give the enemies of peace the opportunity to succeed."
Livni, in a clear reference to voices calling for engagement with Hamas, said "We call on the international community to do all in its power to end the attacks from Gaza. We call on it to maintain a clear distinction between the moderates and the extremists."
In a rare address by an Israeli to this body, Livni said Israel was committed to establishing a viable and vibrant Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. She said such a state, however, "must be built from the ground up," and that efficient and responsible government institutions needed to be developed, law and order ensured, and a monopoly over the use of force maintained.
Livni also met with Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair.
A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office, meanwhile, said Monday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas were scheduled to hold another meeting next week. This meeting, the official said, would focus on the work that negotiating teams from both sides were expected to do to put together a joint statement to be issued at the upcoming international meeting.