Omani FM: No ties before peace accord

Says Palestinian-Israel conflict must be solved first; Livni: Gaza an obstacle to Palestinian statehood.

Livni Doha 224 (photo credit: )
Livni Doha 224
(photo credit: )
Oman will not reopen an Israeli interest section there until after an agreement calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state is signed, the country's foreign minister said after meeting Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Doha. The Omani Foreign Minister, Yusef Bin Alawai, also said in an interview with Al Arabiya after his meeting with Livni that the issue was not discussed during the talks. The meeting, which was held in public during Livni's participation in the Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade, was the first public meeting between an Israeli and Omani minister since Oman cut its ties with Israel following the Palestinian violence of September 2000. Oman established ties with Israel in 1996, and the two countries established interest sections in the other. One Israeli diplomatic official said that while nothing apparently concrete came out of the meeting, it was significant because it was held in public. Officials from the two countries have, however, met discretely since September 2000. Despite Oman's apparent disinterest in reestablishing ties now, Livni - during her address to the conference Monday evening - stressed the role the Arabs countries needed to play in the diplomatic process. "Peace requires historical reconciliation," Livni said. "We are ready and willing to walk this path. But, all sides must choose to walk with us. The hearts and minds of the entire region must be prepared for this historical process." Livni, who met earlier in the day with the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, said that Qatar, which invited her to the conference, has taken "important steps forward in this effort." Israel has an economic representation in Doha. "We can promote mutual understanding by removing incitement and hatred material, and replacing it with messages of hope and mutual acceptance. This is the only way - to create public support for the decisions the leaders need to make," she said. Speaking to a conference that included 100 officials from Arab lands, Livni said that the greatest conflict today was not between Israel and the Palestinians, but rather between the moderates and the extremists. "We, the moderates of the region, are all members of the same camp, facing the same challenges posed by the extremists," she said. "The extremists have, unfortunately, the ability to block or prevent our vision of peace." Livni said it was clear that Israel posed no threat to the peace and stability of the region, and that the real threat to Israel, and moderate and pragmatic Palestinians and Moslems, came from the extremists. Livni said there was "no hope for peace with the extremists, who reject the two-state solution, refuse to even recognize the existence of Israel and choose the path of violence." Livni said that while Israel completely withdrew from Gaza and allowed for Palestinian self-rule there, "we have received terror in return. Gaza is not just an Israeli problem. It has become an obstacle to the formation of a Palestinian state." Livni, who is Israel's chief negotiator in the current talks with the Palestinians, said that "attainment of peace is an Israeli strategic objective, and it is clear that it entails further territorial concessions. Stagnation is not our policy. We have no interest in wasting time, or establishing facts on the ground that will impede the creation of a Palestinian state." During the speech, and obviously drawing on Hamas's victory in democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority, Livni called on the international community to "adopt a universal set of standards for participation in democratic elections." This code would require that all those seeking the legitimacy of the democratic process "earn it by respecting such principles as state monopoly over the lawful use of force, the rejection of racism and violence, and the protection of the rights of others."