Arab leaders conclude 22nd summit in Libya

Arabs thrash out strategy against Israel settlement


Arab leaders concluded on Sunday their summit in Libya and agreed to hold a special summit next September to discuss regional developments and to follow up on the decisions taken to develop Arab cooperation.

Yemen had submitted a proposal backed by Libya to transform the Arab League into an “Arab Union. Meanwhile, the Arab League chief Amr Moussa proposed an “Arab Neighborhood Association” that would advance cooperation on shared security interests in between Arab states and friendly neighboring states, including Turkey and Chad.

Arab leaders had met behind closed doors to thrash out a united strategy against Israel's settlement policy as the Jewish state accused them of lacking moderation and blocking peace efforts.

Delegates said they discussed the stalled Middle East peace process and how to confront Israeli policies in annexed east Jerusalem amid warnings that failure to kick-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks could lead to new wars.

Decisions on Jerusalem

"There are new channels which the leaders will take," if Israel does not halt its settlement policy, Kuwaiti foreign ministry under-secretary Khaled Jarrallah told reporters on the sidelines of the summit in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte.

"If there is an Arab unified position, Israel will have to submit to it," he added without elaborating.

Another delegate said Arab leaders, who were due to wrap up their two-day summit at a closing session Sunday afternoon, could turn to the United Nations for help if U.S. efforts to revive the peace process collapse.

The meeting was given added urgency after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed no let-up in plans to build new homes for settlers in annexed east Jerusalem, Sunday blamed the Palestinians for blocking peace efforts.

"We continue to see that the Palestinians are hardening their positions. They do not show any sign of moderation," Netanyahu said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu also said he did not expect the Arab summit to support US-led efforts to revive negotiations suspended over a year ago.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas ruled out on Saturday any peace talks with the Jewish state until it halts settlements, despite agreeing earlier this month to U.S. calls to enter into indirect "proximity" negotiations with Israel.

"We cannot resume indirect negotiations as long as Israel maintains its settlement policy and the status quo," Abbas told the summit's opening session.

Arab League chief Mussa, who said ahead of the summit that talks with Israel has become "pointless, "echoed him and urged the leaders to consider "the chance of failure of the peace process," due to Israeli policies.

Abbas also warned on Saturday that "wars can erupt if Israeli violations continue" and urged Arab nations to "rescue" Jerusalem -- the city which is home to al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site.

Efforts by the United States to broker indirect Palestinian-Israeli talks were still born when Israel earlier this month announced plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in annexed east Jerusalem.

The plan has angered Washington and enraged the Palestinians who see the mostly Arab part of the Holy City as the capital of their future state.

The international community which has never recognized Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem in 1967, considers all settlements illegal.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon reiterated that position on Saturday when he addressed the opening session of the summit, seeking Arab support for the US-brokered indirect talks and saying Jerusalem must emerge as the "capital of two states."

There are new channels which the leaders will take.If there is an Arab unified position, Israel will have to submit to it

Kuwaiti foreign ministry under secretary Khaled Jarrallah