Egyptian Foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheith and Arab Ligue Secetary General Amr Moussa. (The picture was taken at an earlier meeting of Arab ministers in March).
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told Arab powers he may seek U.S. recognition for a Palestinian state taking in all of the West Bank should peace talks with Israel stay stalled, an aide said on Saturday.
The idea, raised during close-door Arab League deliberations in the Libyn city of Sirte on Friday, could step up pressure on Israel to extend a freeze on Jewish settlement building in the occupied territory, without which Abbas has said peace negotiations cannot continue.
Arab foreign ministers endorsed that Palestinian position, but said they would reconvene in a month to discuss "alternatives" mooted by Abbas. Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters these included "asking the United States to recognize the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders" and studying the possibility of a similar U.N. recognition through a Security Council resolution. A diplomatic source at the Arab League meeting told Reuters another of the alternatives put forward by Abbas was for him to threaten to step down unless settlement building is halted. Abbas had been expected to address Arab heads of state gathered in the Libyan town of Sirte on Saturday, but aides said the Palestinian president would not deliver a speech.
In their meeting on Friday the Arab ministers agreed to give the US another month to try to keep Israeli-Palestinian peace talks from collapsing. The Arab leaders want the US to persuade Israel to renew a freeze on West Bank settlement construction.
They have supported the Palestinians' decision to stop direct talks with Israel unless the Israelis agree to halt all settlement construction in the West Bank. The Arab decision represents a compromise as the US struggles to prevent a total collapse of direct negotiations between the two sides that began last month.
Al Jazeera reported from Sirte that there are divisions in the Arab League as to how to proceed. Countries like Libya and Syria do not support the resumption of peace talks while Israelis continue to build settlements, but "so-called moderate countries" such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are interested in exploring "different venues". This does not come as a surprise. These countries rely heavily on American backing and have been under pressure to vot fo a continuation of the peace talks. Special envoy George Mitchell paid them visists last week, after his attempt to bridge the gap in the Israeli and Palestinian positions collapsed.