WASHINGTON- Israel rejected Thursday night an Arab League proposal made in the UN Security Council meeting of foreign ministers to start peace and reconciliation negotiations with Arab countries based on returning to '67 borders and establishing a Palestinian state whose capital is in Jerusalem.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman said, "Any progress will start with the release of the kidnapped and the cessation of terror."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also participated in the discussion. It was ultimately decided that the discussion would be held and that both sides would speak, but no decisions would be made.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that the lack of a solution leaves a question mark on the effectiveness of the entire governing body. He cautioned about the grave situation in the Occupied Territories saying that the collapse of the Palestinian Authority will result in radicalization.
Bahrain Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, who presented the Arab League's position, clarified, "We have in the past witnessed the horrors of war; however, our peoples are today determined not to see further such horrors."
According to him, the struggle damages the economy: "The confrontation has depleted Middle East resources. We must work toward reconciliation and healing the wounds, not exchanging blame."
He spoke of the need to direct negotiations by the Road Map, Security Council resolutions, and the principle of land for peace. "The Arab states are ready to end the conflict and to enter into a peace agreement with normal relations. Full peace can be achieved in exchange for Israel's full withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, finding a solution to the refugee problem as per UN Security Council Resolution 194, and the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem." The Arab League asks that negotiations take place on a concrete timeframe, as well as a report from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the best way to hold those negotiations.
'No one wants peace more than us'
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman clarified that "progress must be based on the Road Map and the principles established by the two sides. The sides recognize that we don't need any kind of forum to solve our issues. We can do it between us."
He emphasized Israel's commitment to peace and reconciliation: "No one wants peace more than us. We want to actualize the vision of two states according to the Road Map, but tragically we received terror. We are committed to talking with Palestinians interested in peace. However, we can't sweep the problems under the rug, and we must ensure that a Palestinian state won't be a terror base."
In regards to the refugee issue, Gillerman said that t he process will be completed with the return of refugees to Palestine, not Israel. He updated the Security Council in his speech about the meeting between Livni and Abbas this week in New York, and on the intentions to renew the dialogue between him and Prime Minister Olmert.
In the meantime, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raised the issue of the kidnapped soldiers during the Security Council meeting, calling for their immediate, unconditional release. She commented that the US praises the efforts being made to establish a Palestinian national unity government, but conditioned it with the requirement that the government accept the principles of the Quartet.