Arab summit adopts Saudi peace initiative
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- The Arab League adopted Thursday the first "pan-Arab initiative" for peace in the Middle East, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa announced.
The plan, offered by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, was adopted in a closed session following hours of wrangling over its final language.
The plan, in its broadest terms, offers Israel security and "normal relations" in exchange for a withdrawal from occupied Arab territories, creation of an independent Palestinian state with al-Quds al-Shareef (East Jerusalem) as its capital, and the "return of refugees."
Prince Saud al Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, told a news conference, "This is the way toward security ... Israel can't keep the land and want security at the same time. It has to withdraw and give the Palestinian their rights.
"If Israel does that, the Arab states will put an end to the state of war. That will give Israel its security."
The adoption of the initiative was delayed for a time as the parties argued over the language on refugees.
In the end, the initiative asks for "a just solution to the Palestinian problem" by following United Nations Resolution 194. That resolution calls for Palestinian refugees displaced from their former homeland to be allowed to return or to receive compensation.
In addition, the declaration says the summit "rejects all forms of resettlement of Palestinians which conflicts with the special circumstances in the Arab host countries," an apparent reference to the Lebanese objections.
Asked how "normal relations" are defined, Prince Saud al Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, said, "We envision a relationship between the Arab countries and Israel that is exactly like the relationship between the Arab countries and any other state."
In his speech Wednesday, Crown Prince Abdullah -- the architect of the Saudi peace initiative -- called on Arab League delegates to unanimously back the Saudi initiative. (Speech excerpts)
The prince's speech provided the first account of what the Saudis are proposing, but contained few details.
Saudi sources told CNN that the prince intentionally did not spell out the specifics on what was meant by "all occupied Arab territories" and "the return of refugees" to allow the Israelis to settle those matters through negotiations with the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.
"All the neighborhood, if you will, will be at peace with Israel, will recognize their right to exist," he said. "If this doesn't provide security for Israel, I assure you the muzzle of a gun is not going to provide that security," said Prince Saud al-Faisal.
He added that the United States must play a key role in moving toward a lasting peace.
"It has been shown that when the United States pushes Israel toward a compromising position, they will listen even if public opinion is affected by what the United States is doing," al-Faisal said. "This is the time where sense must be talked into (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon. The war and the conflict is in his head. This has to be removed from his mind and only the United States can do that."
The Saudi foreign minister condemned the deaths of 20 civilians in Wednesday's suicide attack in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya, but placed blame on the Jewish state for inspiring the attack. (Full story)
"It is the actions of Israel that are creating these suicide bombers and it is that violence ... that has to stop," he said.
The Arab League summit's final declaration also rejected any attack Iraq. The statement goes on to say, "We demand the respect of Iraq's independence, sovereignty, security and unity." (Full story)
The summit, held in Beirut, has been marred by the absence of three key leaders -- Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah.
Arafat's attempts to address the summit failed when his satellite link from his headquarters in the West Bank was stopped, prompting the Palestinian delegation to walk out of Wednesday's session.
The text of Arafat's speech was distributed to delegates on Thursday.
Abdullah presented his proposal for a comprehensive land-for-peace pact with Israel on Wednesday, the first day of the summit.
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