Arab League discusses Mideast peace

July 31, 2007 - 0:0

CAIRO (AFP) - Arab League foreign ministers were meeting in Cairo on Monday to discuss a Middle East peace plan that is at the vanguard of a renewed diplomatic push to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The 22-member body will hear reports from Egypt and Jordan's foreign ministers, freshly returned from pushing the League-sponsored plan in Israel, and discuss a US call for a peace conference to be held later this year.
""The Arab League will discuss the proposal by U.S. President George W. Bush to Arab states and Israel, and decide on the Arab position,"" League Secretary General Amr Mussa was quoted as saying by the official MENA news agency.
The conference, called for by Bush on July 16, has been slated for September, but Egyptian media said the exact time and place could be announced during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Egypt on Tuesday.
Arab states ""are serious about reviving the peace process and changing the current situation and are not prepared to enter a process that is not real,"" Mussa added, nevertheless describing Bush's call as ""positive.""
The League will hear from Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit who last week said Israel had reacted positively to the Arab peace plan, which promises normalised ties in return for a Palestinian state, withdrawal from land seized in 1967 and the return of refugees.
The plan was first put forward at a League summit in Lebanon in 2002 and reinvigorated in Saudi Arabia earlier this year. Israel has voiced reservations on the refugee issue.
The ever-daunting task of bringing peace between Jews and Arabs has been further complicated by last month's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip by Islamists from Hamas who ejected their secular rival, Fatah.
The Palestinian territories have been effectively divided since then, with Hamas controlling the increasingly isolated Gaza Strip while the elected Hamas-led cabinet has been replaced by a Fatah-dominated emergency government based in the West Bank.
Mussa and interim Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad -- a political moderate and a respected economist -- said on Sunday that the continued division of the Palestinian territories was unacceptable.
Asked whether any agreement in principle had been reached with Israel on establishing a Palestinian state, Fayyad said the issue was ""still at the beginning and it is necessary to make sure that the process is a serious one.""
Hamas has refused to recognize the Fayyad cabinet, which is supported by the West.
The Arab League session is also expected to discuss Libyan ire after Bulgaria pardoned six medics on their return from Libya where they were serving life sentences for allegedly infecting hundreds of children with HIV