Arab leaders have ended a two day summit in the Libyan city of Sirte yesterday by rejecting all Israeli measures in East Jerusalem and calling on the international community to stop the settlement building there and protect the Al Aqsa mosque compound. Israel’s settlement policy poses 'a dangerous obstacle to a just and comprehensive peace', the final resolution of the Arab League summit read.
There was not, however, consensus – and hence no vote – on whether to withdraw Arab support for US-sponsored indirect talks that have yet to begin and that the Palestine Liberation Organisation is resisting until Israel freezes settlement construction in East Jerusalem.
The Arab League had this month given its backing to the proximity talks, but their start was derailed after an announcement by Israel that it had approved the building of 1,600 new settlement units in East Jerusalem.
A declaration addressing the Arab League's key issues was passed, mandating the establishment of a legal committee to follow up on the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem, home evictions, and attacks against holy sites in the occupied Palestinian territories, with the aim of putting its findings before national and international courts. A political framework was also outlined to tackle Israeli policy in East Jerusalem.
'East Jerusalem is an integral part of the occupied Palestinian lands of 1967. All procedures that are carried out by the Israeli Occupation Authorities are illegal, and do not change the legal status of the city that remains occupied, nor does it impact the political status as the capital of Palestine,' the declaration read. A fund was set up to provide Palestinians living in Jerusalem with US$500 million (Dh1.83 billon) to help them cope in the city in the face of growing poverty.
At the opening session Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also spoke. He condemned Israel's policy of considering the whole of Jerusalem as its united capital. 'This is madness and it does not commit us in any way,' Erdogan said in a speech to Arab leaders. 'Jerusalem is the apple of the eye of each and every Muslim ... and we cannot at all accept any Israeli violation in Jerusalem or in Muslim sites,' the Turkish premier added.
A decision to withdraw support for the proximity talks, as had been expected, was not forthcoming however. Instead, members chose to defer a vote on the matter. That decision caused some rancour with Syria, which along with Libya was reported to have urged Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO chairman, to abandon the negotiations process altogether and revert to a strategy of armed resistance to Israel’s occupation.Walid Mualem, Syria’s foreign minister, said his country would not be a part of any final declaration since it disagreed with the indirect negotiations.
Also the summit failed to reach a decision about the 2002 'Arab Peace Initiative', which offers Israel full normalization in exchange for a withdrawal to the 1967 'green line' and a just solution of the Palestinian refugee problem. Mr Qadafi, the summit host, Mr Moussa and others had argued before the summit that the Arab countries needed to come up with practical strategies, not rhetoric. The absence of such decisions might further undermine the credibility of the League in the eyes of millions of ordinary Arabs. Moussa in his news conference, also backed away from his opening remarks in which he had proposed to include Iran in regional talks together with equally non-Arab Turkey. After opposition had arisen against better ties with Iran, mainly from Egypt and Saudi-Arabia, Moussa in his news conference only said that 'dialogue remains necessary'.