Thursday, December 16, 2010

Arab League to Turn to UN for Anti-settlement Resolution

by Herb Keinon

The Palestinian Authority was looking to Arab League foreign ministers who met on Wednesday night in Cairo to “tie its hands” and not authorize even proximity talks until Israel freezes settlement construction, Israeli government officials said.

And, indeed, the Arab League obliged, with the ministers speaking out against any talks – direct or indirect – unless the US takes a firm stance on the future borders of a Palestinian state.

“The negotiation track between the Palestinians and Israelis is futile. There is no return to talks. Any resumption is conditioned on a serious offer that ensures the end to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the peace process references,” the Arab ministers said in a statement.

The Arab League foreign ministers also agreed to go to the UN Security Council for a resolution against settlement construction.

The ministers decided to “bring up the issue” of Israeli settlements with the Security Council, AFP reported.

The Arab League wants “to obtain a decision that confirms, among other things, the illegal nature of this activity and that would oblige Israel to stop it,” a ministerial committee meeting at League headquarters in Cairo said.

The statement put out after the meeting also urged the US, which has used its veto many times to block anti- Israel Security Council resolutions, not to block the move.

Before the meeting of the Arab League ministers, the same forum that in the summer authorized PA President Mahmoud Abbas to enter direct talks with Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke by phonewith Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

US envoy George Mitchell, who met separately with Netanyahu and Abbas over the past two days, met with Mubarak on Wednesday to brief him on the talks and the state of the diplomatic process.

After that meeting, Mitchell said the US intended to pursue substantive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“In the days ahead, our discussions with both sides will be substantive, two-way conversations with an eye towards making real progress in the next few months on the key questions of an eventual framework agreement,” Mitchell was quoted as saying.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, have expressed displeasure that the US was unable to force a settlement freeze extension on Netanyahu, and was also unable to get Israel’s agreement to accept a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, lines.

Netanyahu’s position is that the 1967 lines are indefensible, and therefore should not necessarily be the blueprint when discussing final borders.

While Palestinian spokesmen such as Yasser Abed Rabbo were taking a hard-line public position on the talks, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, in a teaser for an interview on Channel 2 to appear over the weekend, said the Palestinians were not going to go to the UN seeking international recognition, nor would they revert to violence if the negotiations did not work out.

Asked if he was willing to make a clear statement that no matter what happens, he would not turn to the UN for a unilateral declaration of statehood, Fayyad said, “What we are looking for now... is a state of Palestine.

“We are not looking for yet another declaration of statehood.

Remember, we had one,” he said, in reference to Yasser Arafat’s declaration of statehood in 1988, a declaration since recognized by around 100 countries.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, is expected to convene a meeting of his senior ministers – the forum known as the septet – on Thursday to discuss the recent developments.

The septet is also likely to be briefed on meetings senior White House adviser Dennis Ross, who arrived late on Tuesday for an unannounced visit, held in Jerusalem on Wednesday, reportedly with top defense officials.

Ross is widely believed to be the force behind the package of incentives that the US offered Israel in exchange for an extension of the settlement freeze, and has reportedly been engaged in a bit of a turf war with Mitchell regarding the Obama administration’s Mideast policy.

While Ross was originally thought to be concentrating on Iran inside the Obama administration, his role in the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process has reportedly increased significantly over the past few months.

Neither US nor Israeli officials were willing to talk about the Ross visit, leading some to conclude that he was here discussing Iran, and others to believe he was discussing the parameters of Israel’s security needs in the event that a Palestinian state were established.

In a related development, Norway upgraded the PLO diplomatic mission in Oslo to an embassy and called for the creation of a Palestinian state in 2011.

“We should all cling to the vision of 2011 being the year where we can see a new state on the world stage: a Palestinian state,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said, at a press conference in Oslo.

Stoere met with Fayyad in Oslo on Wednesday.

The Norwegian move, like an EU statement earlier this week saying it would recognize Palestinian statehood “when appropriate,” stopped short of the recognition Palestinians are seeking.

Norway is not a member of the EU.

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Herb Keinon
AP and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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