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Consensus on Palestinian issue eludes Arab League meeting in Libya

Monday, March 29, 2010 07:44:55 AM, Agencies

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa (L) talks to Libya's leader Moammar Qaddafi (R) during the closing session of the 23rd Arab League summit in Sirte on Sunday

(Photo: Reuters)

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Sirte (Libya): Arab leaders failed at their summit on Sunday to reach a consensus on whether the Palestinians should resume stalled talks with Israel.

The Arab League scheduled an extraordinary summit for later this year to tackle issues it had been unable to resolve during its two days of meetings in the Libyan city of Sirte.

The Palestinians have said indirect talks with the Israelis will not take place unless Israel cancels a decision to build 1,600 new homes in a settlement near east Jerusalem, dealing a fresh blow to an already troubled Middle East peace process.

The Arab League had given its blessing to the Palestinians, before the Israeli decision was announced, to conduct the so-called proximity talks with Israel, so the organization’s stance now on whether those negotiations should still go ahead is potentially decisive.

After two days of talks in the Libyan town of Sirte, a committee of foreign ministers from some member states produced a resolution saying that a halt to all settlement activity was necessary for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to go ahead.

But that decision was not adopted by the full summit and, in a sign of the lack of consensus, Syria’s foreign minister said his country would not recognize the document as representing the view of the Arab League.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said after the summit ended that another extraordinary meeting of heads of state would take place at an unspecified date later in the year to deal with outstanding issues.

He acknowledged the urgency of taking a collective decision on the Israeli-Palestinian talks.

“Within the next few weeks we have to decide what to do: Whether to continue with the negotiations or to completely shift course,” he told a news conference.

Arab leaders urged US President Barack Obama to keep up his efforts to halt all Israeli settlement building on Palestinian land, in a final statement. The leaders stressed “their total rejection of the settlement policy carried out by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories and call on President Obama to uphold his position ... to completely halt settlements.” Israel’s settlement policy poses “a dangerous obstacle to a just and comprehensive peace process,” read the final resolution.

Hamas criticized the summit for failing to go far enough in response to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. “The positions taken by the Arab summit were not at the level demanded and did not match the aspirations of the Palestinian people to lift the siege, end their suffering and protect their holy sites,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said. “Waiting to test the intentions of the occupation is a waste of time... the summit should have used every means of Arab pressure to isolate the Zionist occupation.”

In another development, a senior Israeli minister warned on Sunday that Israel would “liquidate” the Hamas-run government in Gaza, in the wake of deadly weekend clashes that killed two Israeli soldiers.

“Sooner or later we will liquidate the military regime of the pro-Iranian Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, from the governing rightwing Likud party, told public radio.

“I am not setting a timetable, but we will not tolerate this regime continuing to strengthen itself militarily and providing itself with an arsenal of rockets that threaten our territory,” he added.

Barhum said Steinitz’s remarks “reflect the criminal intentions of the Zionist occupation government and confirm its continuing acts of state terrorism.

He went on to call for Israel’s “regional and international isolation and the immediate launch of war crimes trials for its leaders.”






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