Freeze Arab Initiative, Israel Ties: Summit

Arab and Muslim leaders and officials who came together Friday, January 16, in Doha have called for suspending the Arab peace initiative and freezing all Arab ties with Israel over its ongoing onslaught against the Gaza Strip.

"Arab countries should consider suspending the Arab peace initiative with Israel," the summiteers said in a final statement read out by Qatari Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said Qatar.

The 2002 initiative offers Israel normal relations will all Arab countries in return for its full withdrawal from all Arab land and a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.

Since the Arabs first tabled it in the Beirut Arab summit, Israel has never accepted the initiative.

Addressing leaders at the emergency summit, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stressed the Arab initiative was now "dead".

The Doha meeting was attended by 13 of the Arab League’s 22 members plus Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

Turkey also took part, with Ankara sending an aide to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Absent were Arab heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia, in addition to several other countries.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also reneged on his earlier decision to attend the summit.

Qatar had proposed hosting a special Arab summit on Gaza, but Egypt and Saudi Arabia said they preferred to discuss Gaza at a planned economic summit in Kuwait on Monday.

Doha failed to secure the quorum of 15 needed for a formal Arab League summit.

Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, admitted on Friday that the Arab nation’s reaction to the war on Gaza was "in a very big chaos".

Freezing Ties

The Doha-hosted summit also called for reviewing ties with Israel over the Gaza onslaught.

"All Arab countries should also freeze all ties, including diplomatic and economic, with Israel," said the statement.

President Assad said Arab countries should cut "all direct and indirect" ties with Israel in protest against its offensive in Gaza.

"Syria has decided that indirect peace negotiations with Israel will be halted," he told delegates.

His comments echoed those of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.

Earlier today, Qatar and Mauritania froze ties with Israel over its three-week-old offensive on Gaza.

Sheikh Hamad said Qatar, the only Gulf Arab state with ties to Israel, would ask Israel to close its trade office in Doha and remove its staff until the situation improved.

In Nouakchott, Mauritania said it had frozen political and economic ties with Israel following the recall of its ambassador for consultations last week in protest at the Gaza offensive.

Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries which have signed peace treaties with Israel and which have Israeli embassies.

The summiteers called for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

Other demands included the opening of all border crossings, lifting of the blockade, and holding Israel responsible

( and Agencies)

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