Stop atrocities first, Saudi tells Israel
By P.K. Abdul Ghafour
JEDDAH, (Arab News) — Saudi Arabia yesterday urged Israel to stop atrocities against the Palestinians and accept relevant international resolutions if it wants peace with the Arab world.
“Israel must understand that peace demands a halt to its violations, torture and excesses against the Palestinian people before anything else,” the Council of Ministers said in a statement.
The weekly Cabinet meeting, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, also said that Israel “should accept the resolutions endorsed by international forums in past years.”
This is the first Saudi reaction after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday invited Arab leaders to a regional peace conference to discuss their ideas for resolving the Middle East conflict. Olmert made the overture after the March 28-29 Arab summit in Riyadh relaunched a 2002 peace initiative, which was originally proposed by King Abdullah when he was crown prince.
The peace initiative calls for a full withdrawal by Israel to pre-1967 borders and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. It also calls for the return of Palestinian refugees. Arab countries in return would recognize Israel and establish diplomatic relations with it.
Speaking at the concluding session of the summit, Jordan’s King Abdallah said: “Israel must choose between two options: to live in a cycle of constant war and increasing hatred or to accept the option of peace and coexistence.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to the Israeli people to embrace the plan, saying his own citizens were “sincere in extending the hand of peace.”
Olmert welcomed the summit decision but said Israel would not accept all parts of the plan. “I think this new way of thinking — the willingness to recognize Israel as an established fact and to debate the conditions of the future solution — is a step that I can’t help but appreciate,” he said.
Speaking at the Cabinet meeting, King Abdullah said the two-day summit was successful in reviving confidence and optimism among the Arabs about a brighter future. He said the summit leaders had discussed all issues “in a cooperative, open, frank and serious manner,” enabling them to adopt fruitful resolutions.
Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani said the Cabinet welcomed the resolutions taken by the summit as well as the Riyadh Declaration and statements on the crises in Darfur and Somalia.
“The Arab leaders who attended the Riyadh summit have supported peace, development, reforms and independence of Arab decisions. The countries who are involved in issues of the region should understand this fact very clearly,” the Cabinet said.
It also urged the United States and European countries to lift the economic siege of the Palestinians and deal with the Palestinian unity government with openness and without exception as it represents all Palestinians.
The Cabinet also licensed three new joint stock companies to provide insurance service. They are: United Cooperative Assurance Co. (UCA), Arabia Insurance Cooperative Co. and Trade Union Insurance Company.
The Cabinet endorsed two memorandums of understanding with Egypt for environmental protection and development and meteorological cooperation that were signed in 2005. It changed the by-laws of King Abdul Aziz Museum (Darat) to include a new member to its board, representing the King Abdul Aziz Public Library.
The meeting approved the general agreement for cooperation with Guinea, which was signed March 15, 2006, the Saudi Press Agency said, adding that the accord would expand economic, commercial, educational, scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries. The agreement also underlines freedom in money transfers.
The Cabinet endorsed two protocols related to the 1954 Hague Agreement on protection of cultural properties in times of armed conflicts. It appointed Ahmed ibn Muhammad Al-Zeghaibi and Abdul Aziz ibn Hamza Gazzaz as ambassadors at the Foreign Ministry and Saeed ibn Ali Al-Marae as adviser for civilian protection at the Civil Defense Department.