EU official, Saudi prince discuss Mideast peace plan
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Crown Prince Abdullah and European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana discussed the prince's proposal for Middle East peace Wednesday, Saudi sources said.
Solana, who met Tuesday with Ariel Sharon, said the Israeli prime minister was interested in the plan and was willing to talk with Saudi officials, publicly or privately.
Solana cut short his visit to Israel to fly to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Crown Prince Abdullah.
The Saudi prince has said that he has been considering a proposal for the Arab world to normalize relations with Israel -- providing the country with assurances of security -- in return for Israel withdrawing from the Palestinian territories, going back to borders which existed before the 1967 Six Day War.
After meeting with Abdullah, Solana boarded a flight to Cairo, where he was expected to talk with Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary general, as well as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He will then go to the Jordanian capital of Amman for talks with King Abdullah, his spokeswoman said..
Israel Radio quoted a Saudi official Wednesday as saying Saudi Arabia does not intend to get directly involved in peace negotiations. The diplomat said the proposal is intended to send a signal to Israelis that peace is possible.
President Bush called Abdullah on Tuesday to express his appreciation for the initiative. Saudi officials have said that peace in the region must involve direct talks between Israel, the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the Saudi proposal a "vision" for settling the conflict. He said the United States would continue to pressure Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to curb violence in the region so that the two parties can start implementing a series of proposals from a commission headed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
The Mitchell plan calls for a cease-fire, a cooling-off period during which confidence-building measures would be put in place and the resumption of peace talks.
One senior U.S. official said the Saudi initiative was significant but "isn't doable" until Israeli-Palestinian violence subsides. "The short term needs to be about what we can all do to help the sides climb down," the official said. (Full story)
Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza since the Six Day War but began granting Palestinians limited self-rule in 1993 under the Oslo accords. The territory controlled by Arafat's Palestinian Authority remains dispersed and intersected by Israeli civilian and military installations.
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab states that formally recognize Israel.
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