Skip to main content
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

Rice: Syria may attend Mideast peace conference in Washington

  • Story Highlights
  • Conference goal: "Help lay a foundation" for Palestinian state, Rice said
  • Syria supports Hamas and the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah
  • U.S. State Department says Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist outfits
  • Next Article in World »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Syria could attend an upcoming Middle East peace conference in Washington as part of an Arab League committee, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday.

art.rice.jpg

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attends a Middle East "Quartet" briefing at the U.N. Sunday.

Speaking after a meeting of the Mideast Quartet -- which includes the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia -- Rice said Arab League members charged with following up on a Saudi-backed peace proposal were likely to be invited to the November conference.

Syria is a member of that follow-up committee.

"We have not issued any invitation as such," she said. "But it is only natural that we would hope that the participants would include the members of the Arab follow-up committee."

Washington has been extremely critical of Syria's support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah, which fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006. The State Department classifies both groups as terrorist organizations.

Rice has said resolving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a key priority for the remainder of her tenure. The goal of November's conference is to "help lay a foundation" for the establishment of a Palestinian state, she said during a trip to the region last week.

Rice met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the trip.

Olmert and Abbas have been meeting in recent weeks in advance of the talks, trying to reach agreement on "principles" about the nature of a future Palestinian state.

But Israelis and Palestinians remain at odds over whether the talks will deal with merely the agreement of principles, as Israel is suggesting, or a more detailed outline including timetables, favored by the Palestinians.

Abbas said the Washington conference must address the issues that have stymied peace negotiators for decades: the borders of a Palestinian state, the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

Saudi Arabia, which has proposed Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories, has refused to attend the meeting unless those "core issues" are discussed.

Sunday's Quartet meeting came on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly session, scheduled to open Monday in New York. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the Quartet's envoy to the Middle East, said diplomats have seen a "reinvigoration" of political efforts in recent months.

"The most important thing is that things are moving again," Blair said. "There is momentum back in this process. That doesn't mean we are foolishly optimistic after all the difficulties of the past, but things are moving again." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.

All About Condoleezza RiceHezbollahSyriaHamas

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print