Arabs harden positions ahead of peace summit

Tuesday, October 02, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

The Palestinian Authority and the wider Arab world are hardening their political positions and expanding their demands ahead of a planned US-hosted peace summit with Israel scheduled to take place next month in Annapolis, Maryland.

US President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have all billed the gathering as the start of a new and final push to a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

But on Monday, Palestinian Authority officials told The Jerusalem Post that Abbas will now participate in the summit only if solutions to all fundamental issues can first be worked out with Israel in the coming month. The statement was seen by Jerusalem as a pressure tactic to get the Bush Administration to insist that Israel accept the Arabs' demands.

The Saudi Arabian government at the weekend issued similar pre-conditions to attending the summit.

During a press conference on the sidelines of a UN event in New York, Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal said that Israel must first agree to withdraw from all the territories it liberated in the 1967 Six Day War before the Arab world will even consider recognizing the Jewish state's right to exist.

Syria has also conditioned its participation in the summit on Israel agreeing to surrender the entire Golan Heights.

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