Arab Peace Offer ‘Under Review’

Arab leaders meeting in Damascus have said that they will review a peace offer extended to Israel in 2002 unless it changes its behaviour.

The warning was made on Sunday at the end a two-day Arab summit marred by divisions over the political crisis in Lebanon.

"For the Arab side to continue to offer the Arab peace initiative is tied to Israel executing its commitments in the framework of international resolutions to achieve peace in the region," a Damascus Declaration said.
The Arab initiative of 2002 offers Israel peace and normal relations with all Arab countries in return for withdrawal from all territory captured in the 1967 war.

Although no time frame was set in the declaration, Amr Moussa, the Arab League chief, told a news conference that a review could begin in the middle of the year.

The language on the Arab peace plan was not a surprise as it was almost identical to that of a decision approved by Arab foreign ministers at a meeting in Cairo three weeks ago.

The declaration also expressed support for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, saying his leadership should be respected 

It also said the situation in Gaza should "return to the status" before Hamas seized full control of the territory by forcing out security forces loyal to Abbas in June.

Iraqi Refusal

Meanwhile, the delegation from the government in Baghdad refused to endorse the declaration for failing to condemn terrorism in Iraq.

"I express reservations on the text because this is not what we have agreed upon [in closed door meetings]," Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the Iraqi vice-president, said. 

Iraq’s Shia and Kurd-led government has repeatedly accused Sunni-led Arab governments in the region of not taking a strong enough stance against Sunni Arab fighters in Iraq.

Delegates have announced they will hold an international conference to define the meaning of terrorism.
This is reportedly aimed at differentiating between "resistance" and "terrorism" and an attempted "international standard" on defining terrorism.

Despite Iraqi objections, Arab League leaders called for their "Iraqi brothers to stop bloodshed immediately and preserve the lives of innocent citizens" and for the quick withdrawal of the "foreign presence" in Iraq.

Member states also urged Iraq "to disband all militias without  exception … and speed up the building and training of the Iraqi armed and security forces …"

‘Successful Summit’

Despite Iraq’s refusal to sign the declaration and several key leaders not attending, Walid Al-Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister, insisted that the summit "had ended successfully".

The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt accused Syria of blocking the election of a new president in Lebanon. Syria denied "meddling" in Beirut’s domestic politics.

The declaration stated Arab nations’ commitment to the Arab initiative to solve the Lebanese crisis.

It called "on Lebanese leaders to elect General Michel Suleiman [the consensus presidential candidate] at the time agreed".

They also called for the strained ties between Lebanon and Syria to be put "on the right path".

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