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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Quartet Peace Talks: Who is not invited to the party?

What is missing in this picture? When Javier Solana says:
 the aim of involving the four Arab countries in the peace talks was to "look at the problems with the same views in order to find solutions."
Does he mean that the Quartet has now adopted the positions of the Arab countries on right of return of Palestinian refugees?
What country has not been invited to these talks?
Is the Quartet about to degenerate into a branch of the Arab League? Is that the price of getting oil at $57 a barrel and cooperation in Iraq?

Kingdom to Join ME Talks
Raid Qusti, Arab News

RIYADH, 14 March 2007 — The next meeting of the international Quartet focusing on the Middle East peace process will include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, according to Javier Solana, European Union foreign policy chief.
Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal yesterday, Solana said the aim of involving the four Arab countries in the peace talks was to "look at the problems with the same views in order to find solutions."
Prince Saud said that his talks with the EU official were "in-depth and extensive," saying that they focused mainly on the situation in the Middle East. He said Solana had briefed him on the outcome of the recent EU summit, his tour in the region, the Israeli-Palestinian problem, the situation in Iraq and Lebanon and also nuclear issues.
He lauded the role played by the EU in expressing its support for easing tensions in the region and its readiness to support countries in the region in their attempts to find peaceful solutions to all problems.
"I will not forget to commend the positive stance of the EU summit regarding the Makkah agreement between Fatah and Hamas," said Prince Saud. He continued: "We look forward to turning this stance into support and assistance to the coming Palestinian national unity government in order to enable it to shoulder its responsibilities for lifting the humanitarian sufferings of the Palestinian people and promoting peace in the region."
Prince Saud also said that the EU had been supportive in dealing with regional nuclear issues peacefully. He said he expected this role would continue to remain "away from the language of escalation and tension."
He went on to say that he hoped the EU would continue its role "to ensure the rights of countries to obtain nuclear energy for peaceful purposes according to the criteria of the International Atomic Energy Agency. For our part, we stress the importance of applying these criteria to all states in the region, including Israel."
The two leaders also discussed the international conference on Iraq held in Baghdad last Saturday. Solana said that peace in the Middle East was essential to promote world peace.
"We have an interest in the Middle East," he said. "It goes beyond strategic interests. For us the Middle East is also part of our neighborhood, and therefore the interests of peace and development in the region are in the interest of the European Union."
Solana lauded the Kingdom's stabilizing role in the region, describing it as "fundamental." Referring to Saudi efforts to bring peace, he said, "Every day we see initiatives; every day we see suggestions." He commended the Kingdom for its recent success in bringing the Palestinian groups together in Makkah, for King Abdullah's talks with the Iranian president and for the Saudi king's meeting with President Putin. He said that both he and Prince Saud agreed that the Lebanese issue "was close to their hearts."
He mentioned that he had been to Lebanon where he met Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Saad Hariri, and members of the Lebanese Parliament. He said he would brief Prince Saud on his meeting with Syrian officials today.
Prince Saud said that threats of force in Lebanon would not produce results, calling upon all Lebanese parties to use reason and put the interests of their nation before anything else.
He denied an AFP report that the Kingdom was hosting a meeting of Lebanese groups next week. He said, however, that the groups were welcome to come to the Kingdom "if the meeting would result in restoring peace, prosperity and development to Lebanon."
Regarding the Kingdom's stance on the Iranian nuclear issue, Prince Saud stressed the importance of normalization with Iran without the country being pressured. He said it was important "that negotiations continue without the feeling of having a gun pointed at their heads. Negotiations in normal circumstances are difficult and negotiations in a confrontational situation are almost impossible."
Commenting on the EU free trade agreement with the GCC countries, Solana said discussions unfortunately were moving too slowly. He said he hoped an agreement would be reached before the end of this year. Concerning the Palestinians, Solana said the EU welcomed the formation of the Palestinian national unity government.
"We have never let the Palestinian people down," he said. "In 2005, we spent money and in 2006 we spent more," he said, referring to the EU's financial support for the Palestinian government. He said the EU was keen on seeing the "right people in the right places" in the new Palestinian government, saying that was also very important for the Palestinian people.
On the matter of Sudan, Solana said that President Bashir should accept the UN resolution to have multinational forces to restore peace in war-torn areas, adding that the EU would make financial contributions.
On the Arab peace plan which has not been accepted by Israel, Prince Saud said Resolution 242, the Madrid Conference and lastly this one had all been rejected by the Jewish state. "There were conditions by Israel in every one of those accords," he said. "You have to accept a proposal and then talk about it. To have pre-conditions before negotiations or discussions seems a ludicrous way of doing business."

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