Arabs optimistic on Obama, but 'still waiting' for action

US president has made "a good beginning," Arab League spokesman says.

arab league 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
arab league 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Arab League is pleased with what it has seen so far from the new US administration vis-á-vis the peace process, but is "still waiting for [President Barack] Obama to deliver," an Arab League spokesman said on Tuesday. "We think Obama is different than the former [American] administration so far," Abdel Aleem al-Abiyad told reporters in Cairo. "He made, in our opinion, a good beginning by declaring that he would be engaged in trying to effect peace between Arabs and Israelis. He sent [Middle East envoy] George Mitchell to the area." But he said that the 22-nation Arab organization was still waiting for Obama to make good on his pledges, particularly since "Arabs have a very good initiative" on the table. The 2002 Arab peace initiative "should [lay] the groundwork for real peace between Palestinians and Israelis," as well as between Israel and the rest of the Arab world, he said. Concerning US Vice President Joe Biden's remarks on Tuesday that "Israel has to work toward a two-state solution" and "stop building settlements," Abiyad called them positive, saying that this was what the Arab League had been asking all along. Also Tuesday, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa rejected as "unacceptable" Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's remarks about pursuing a political, security and economic track toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu said he supported engaging in negotiations without preconditions and did not make mention of a two-state solution. King Abdullah of Jordan, on behalf of the Arab League, recently delivered a message to Obama that "Arabs are ready for peace" on the basis of the Arab initiative, Abiyad said. Meanwhile, the Arab League is holding a special meeting on Thursday between its secretary-general and Arab foreign ministers to discuss the issue of Jerusalem, including "demolitions and settlement expansion," he said. The purpose of the meeting "is to shed light on what Israel is doing to change the geographic and demographic situation in Jerusalem" in violation of international resolutions, he said. The Arab League issued a statement on Tuesday arguing that the Arab perspective and regional interests should be taken into consideration in any Iranian-American dialogue. Moussa has long advocated that the Arab League take a "collective approach" in engaging in dialogue with Iran, but Abiyad acknowledged that so far, that had not happened. He declined to state why, though experts said that the divided Arab world was not interested in taking such an approach. "I don't think Amr Moussa's position reflects the attitude of the mainstream Arab countries," said Gamal Abdel Gawad, head of the international relations unit at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "I don't think Arab governments think it is the right time to do that with Iran." In addition, many Arab states are waiting to see what develops between the United States and Iran before engaging in such actions themselves, he said.