Saudi Arabia dismissed calls by the US government to mend
relations with Israel to help restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Saudi Foreign Minister
Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Friday
that Riyadh would not consider forging links with Israel until it
agrees to withdraw from all occupied Palestinian territories.
"Incrementalism and a step-by-step approach, has not and, we
believe, will not lead to peace," al-Faisal said on Friday after
holding talks with Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, in
Washington before adding, ""Temporary security and confidence building measures will also not
Al-Faisal said that Israel must adhere to what is stipulated in the
Arab Peace Initiative, which has been endorsed by the 22-member Arb
League, in order for it to have a constructive relationship with
"What is required is a comprehensive approach that defines the final
outcome at the outset and launches into negotiations over final
status issues," he said.
Those final status issues include marking the borders of a future
Palestinian state, control of the city of Jerusalem, the right of
return of Palestinian refugees, security and water rights.
Barack Obama, the US president, Clinton and George Mitchell, the
Middle East peace envoy, have all called on Arab states to build
relations with Israel.
Measures such as opening trade offices, allowing academic exchanges
and permitting civilian Israeli aircraft to overfly their airspace
have been touted by Washington as a way for Arab nations to show
they are committed to peace in the region.
The Obama administration wants "the Arab states, including our
friends in Saudi Arabia, to work with us to take steps to improve
relations with Israel, to support the Palestinian Authority and to
prepare their people to embrace the eventual peace between the
Palestinians and the Israelis," Clinton said after talks with
"Saudi Arabia's continued leadership is absolutely vital to achieve
a comprehensive and lasting peace," she said.
Her remarks about the importance of Saudi Arabia to the process were
supported by more than 200 US politicians who urged King Abdullah,
the Saudi ruler, to push Middle East peace efforts forward with "a
"We have been disappointed thus far to see the public reaction of
your government to President Obama's request," they wrote in a
letter to the monarch.
"We urge you to assert a strong leadership role and help lead the
Middle East to a new era of peace and reconciliation by stepping
forward with a dramatic gesture toward Israel akin to the steps
taken earlier by the leaders of Egypt and Jordan."
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab nations which have diplomatic
relations with Israel.
But al-Faisal said Israel was ignoring the Arab Peace Initiative, a
proposal in which Arab states would formally recognise Israel in
return of its withdrawal from Arab territories occupied during the
1967 Arab-Israeli war.
"The question really is, 'What will Israel give in exchange for this
comprehensive settlement offer'?" he said.
"Israel hasn't even responded to an American request to halt
settlements [in the Israeli occupied West Bank], which President
Obama described as illegitimate," he said.