Arab leaders: Arab initiative depends on Israel

Concluding statement at Arab summit urges Israel to end occupation, blockade imposed on Palestinians.

assadmoussa224.88ap (photo credit: AP )
(photo credit: AP )
The fulfillment of the 2002 Arab land-for-peace proposal depends on Israel, Arab leaders concluded Sunday at the end of the annual Arab League summit in Damascus. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa read out a declaration at the closing session, asserting that "it is up to Israel to end the occupation and the blockade imposed on the Palestinian people." The declaration called on Israel to accept the Arab peace initiative and backed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, saying the "international momentum" from a November Mideast peace conference in Annapolis should be maintained. It also expressed support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying his leadership should be respected - key backing for Abbas after Syria's ally Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June. The statement said the situation in Gaza should "return to the status" before the takeover. Syrian President Bashar Assad concluded the summit by outlining the issues discussed at the summit, particularly the situation in Iraq and the plight of the Palestinians. Assad thanked Qatar for agreeing to host next year's summit and praised the Yemeni initiative aimed at solving the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, which he hailed as "important." The summit's declaration also emphasized the importance of the Yemeni initiative and announced the Arab League's support for an international committee under UN supervision to probe the issue of terrorism. Additionally, Moussa expressed his support for efforts to find a new Lebanese president and to strengthen relations between Lebanon and Syria. Though Iraq was mentioned in the summit's final statement, Iraq itself refused to endorse it. Shi'ite Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi said Iraq had "reservations" about the statement because of the lack of a terror condemnation. Iraq's Shi'ite and Kurd-led government has long accused Sunni-led Arab governments of not taking a strong enough stance against Sunni Arab fighters who made up the backbone of Iraq's insurgency.