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Saudis reject US appeals for confidence building gestures

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  • Paul
    The Jerusalem Post Aug 1, 2009 1:42 | Updated Aug 1, 2009 8:45 Saudis reject US appeals for confidence building gestures By AP AND HERB KEINON
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2009
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      The Jerusalem Post
      Aug 1, 2009 1:42 | Updated Aug 1, 2009 8:45
      Saudis reject US appeals for confidence building gestures


      Saudi Arabia on Friday bluntly rejected US appeals for improved
      relations with Israel as a way to help restart Middle East peace talks,
      saying the Jewish state is not interested in a deal.

      After talks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Saudi
      Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said his country would not
      consider steps suggested by US Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell until
      Israel accepts Arab demands to withdraw from all occupied Palestinian

      "Incrementalism and a step-by-step approach, has not and, we believe,
      will not lead to peace," Saud said as Clinton looked on at a joint State
      Department news conference. "Temporary security and confidence building
      measures will also not bring peace."

      "What is required is a comprehensive approach that defines the final
      outcome at the outset and launches into negotiations over final status
      issues," the prince said, referring to the borders of a future
      Palestinian state, control of Jerusalem, the return of Palestinian
      refugees, water and security.

      President Barack Obama, Clinton and Mitchell all have been urging Arab
      nations to improve ties with Israel with confidence-building measures
      such as opening trade offices, allowing academic exchanges and
      permitting civilian Israeli aircraft to overfly their airspace as a way
      of demonstrating their commitment to peace.

      US government sources have said in recent weeks that Obama's pressure on
      Israel to stop settlement construction has been accompanied by equal
      pressure on the Arab world to make some gestures of normalization toward
      the Jewish state at the beginning, and not the end, of the diplomatic

      Obama's overtures to Saudi Arabia have, however, fallen on deaf ears so
      far, and a personal letter to Morocco's King Muhammad VI earlier this
      year to 'be a leader in bridging gaps between Israel and the Arab world'
      has not had any visible effect.

      Clinton repeated the call in her remarks, saying the Obama
      administration wants "the Arab states, including our friends in Saudi
      Arabia, to work with us to take steps to improve relations with Israel,
      to support the Palestinian Authority and to prepare their people to
      embrace the eventual peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis."

      "Saudi Arabia's continued leadership is absolutely vital to achieve a
      comprehensive and lasting peace," she said.

      A bipartisan group of more than 200 members of Congress delivered a
      similar message Friday to Saudi King Abdullah, urging him to drop
      opposition to the administration's appeal for intermediate
      confidence-building steps.

      "We have been disappointed thus far to see the public reaction of your
      government to President Obama's request," the lawmakers wrote in a
      letter to the monarch. "We urge you to assert a strong leadership role
      and help lead the Middle East to a new era of peace and reconciliation
      by stepping forward with a dramatic gesture toward Israel akin to the
      steps taken earlier by the leaders of Egypt and Jordan."

      But Saud flatly ruled that out. He maintained that Israel was trying to
      distract the world from a Saudi-proposed Arab-Israel peace deal in which
      Arab states would recognize Israel provided it withdraws from Arab
      territory seized in the 1967 Six Day War.

      "The question really is, What will Israel give in exchange for this
      comprehensive settlement offer?" Saud said, noting that Prime Minister
      Binyamin Netanyahu has ignored US calls to stop constructing Jewish
      settlements in the West Bank and building housing in East Jerusalem.

      "Israel hasn't even responded to an American request to halt
      settlements, which President Obama described as illegitimate," he said.

      The Saudi stance is complicating Mitchell's efforts to bring the
      Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations.

      But Clinton denied that the odds were insurmountable. She said Mitchell,
      who just returned from his fifth trip to the region, was making progress
      and developing a formula to get the two sides talking again.

      "We feel like we're making headway and we are determined to do so in as
      short a period of time as possible," she said.
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