News / Middle East

Arab League Summit Concludes Amid More Criticism of Israel

The 22nd annual summit of Arab leaders drew to a close with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa warning that Arab-Israeli peace talks are "approaching the end of their rope."

Arab leaders cut short their annual summit, making no lengthy statements and downplaying differences of opinion.  

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa noted that the closed-door session had focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, developments in Sudan and inter-Arab cooperation.

In a news conference, the normally mild-mannered Moussa employed unusually critical language to describe the Arab-Israeli peace process.  He told journalists in Arabic the peace process "is approaching the end of its rope," before calling it a "vicious circle."

"We cannot enter into another vicious circle to be added to the previous hundreds of vicious circles that would end at a zero result and then get some more suggestions about a new process.  We are fed up with this - really fed up with this," he said.

Moussa gave no concrete indication of what Arab leaders were prepared to do if peace talks were to fail, but put the responsibility on Israel to "change its behavior" in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories.

"The ball is in the Israeli court, now.  We are waiting to see whether they are serious," he added.  "If they are serious, they have to stop all the procedures, all the practices, that they are following in Jerusalem.  If they are serious, they have to deal with the situation in the Occupied Territories in a different way. If they are serious, we are serious."

Arab leaders are apparently divided over how to approach the Arab-Israeli conflict, and Jazeera TV reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas exchanged harsh words over the Palestinian resistance during the closed door session.

There also appeared to be a difference of opinion among Arab monarchs and heads of state over how to deal with Iran.  Amr Moussa downplayed his statements at Saturday's session that the Arab League is ready to include Iran in regional organizations, but left the door open to dialogue:

"Pertaining to Iran, we will continue to discuss the possibilities of a dialogue," he said.  "We need some more consultations.  There are some different opinions, but the issue is on the table."

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal told journalists that improving Arab relations with Iran must be tied to a change in Tehran's behavior.

He says he agrees with the prevailing opinion that it is not the time for including Iran in regional organizations.   He says it is time for Iran to change its behavior toward the Arab states.

Secretary General Moussa offered an olive branch to Tehran, saying "Iran is not our enemy, but a fraternal state."  But he emphasized that Shi'ite-Sunni sectarian strife in Iraq has dangerous consequences and "could last for hundreds of years."

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