Arab foreign ministers unlikely to push for Israel talks

Ministers will discuss "practical steps" to revive Saudi peace initiative.

arab fm summit 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
arab fm summit 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
On the eve of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, sources in the Arab League in Cairo ruled out the possibility that the ministers would decide to launch direct negotiations with Israel. "This issue is not on the table now," one source told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. "The ministers will discuss ways of marketing the Arab peace plan to the international community. Talks with Israel might take place at a later stage." At Wednesday's meeting, the sources said, the ministers are expected to agree on a number of "practical steps" to revive the plan and promote it as a basis - acceptable to all Arabs - for a lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict. One such step would be working groups to discuss the issues, they said. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has expressed his appreciation for certain elements of the plan. He stressed Monday that Saudi Arabia played a crucial role. Israel has been pushing to join a working group that would include Saudi Arabia, sources in Washington have said. Arab League sources said they did not rule out the possibility that some of the Arab ministers would demand that "new ideas" or proposals be introduced to the plan, especially regarding the explosive issues of refugees, borders, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. An Egyptian government official said the foreign ministers would try to formulate a common vision about peace with Israel that would be presented to representatives of the Quartet. On the eve of the meeting, the Arab League transferred $52 million to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, PA envoy to the Arab League Muhammad Subaih, said Tuesday. "The Arab League will continue to channel funds until the international boycott of the Palestinian Finance Ministry is lifted," he said in an interview with the Palestinian Maan news agency. "After that, the money will be sent directly to the ministry." Subaih said the Arab ministers were expected to give a green light to a number of working committees to contact Israel, the US and other members of the Quartet to brief them on the details of the Arab peace plan.