Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh urged Arab leaders on Wednesday not to compromise on the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. Haniyeh spoke at the much-anticipated summit in Riyadh, which kicked off on Wednesday afternoon as Arab leaders gathered to re-launch the 2002 land-for-peace offer to Israel. The peace initiative is the centerpiece of the two-day summit, which convened in the Saudi capital at a time when the United States has shown some progress in maneuvering all sides into place for a resumption in long-stalled Mideast peace negotiations.
Analysis: Formal shift on refugees unlikely
The initiative, first launched by the Arab summit in 2002, offers Israel recognition and permanent peace with all Arab countries in return for Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war. It also calls for setting up a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and a "just solution" to the issue of Palestinian refugees.
Israel rejected the Arab initiative in 2002, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said last week his country was willing to accept it with some changes, particularly if demands over Palestinian refugees were watered down.
The Arab leaders have rejected such changes; however, the summit will create "working groups" to promote the offer in talks with the United States, United Nations and Europe - and perhaps Israel.
US allies Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are hoping that the working groups can work behind the scenes to make the initiative more palatable to Israel and the West as the basis for a re-launching of talks.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib said there was a "potential" that the working groups could hold direct talks with Israel. "This has been discussed," he said in an interview published Wednesday in the Arab daily Al-Hayat.