Syria says Golan Heights on Annapolis agenda
FM Moualem says US agreed to include talks on disputed region during next week's peace parley, but adds Syria yet to decide whether it will attend. Saudi FM al-Faisal declares his country will participate, but that he will not allow 'theatrics' like handshakes with Israeli officials
The United States has agreed to put the occupied Golan Heights on the agenda of the Annapolis peace conference, but Syria will decide whether to attend when it receives the schedule, Foreign Minister Walid Moualem said on Friday.
"The United States has sent confirmation that it will include the Syrian-Israeli track... The Golan... On the Annapolis schedule," the Syrian news agency quoted Moualem as saying.
There was no immediate comment from Washington.
The Damascus government has repeatedly said it would only attend the US-hosted conference, which aims to restart talks on Palestinian statehood, if the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, are on the agenda.
Moualem was in Cairo for a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to prepare a common strategy for the Annapolis conference on Nov. 27. He said Syria learnt about the inclusion of the Golan through Arab ministers who contacted Washington about the issue.
Earleir, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said he will attend next week's US-sponsored Middle East peace conference but insisted he would not allow "theatrics" like handshakes with Israeli officials, saying the gathering must make serious progress.
Participation by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was a key goal of the United States to show strong Arab support for the conference, due to be held in Annapolis, Maryland. Until Friday, the kingdom had balked at saying whether it would attend and at what level, seeking assurances Israel would commit to serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa (Photo: AFP)
Al-Faisal told a press conference that an Arab League meeting Friday had decided that Arab countries will attend Annapolis at the level of foreign minister. "I'm not hiding any secret about the Saudi position.
We were reluctant until today. And if not for the Arab consensus we felt today, we would not have decided to go," al-Faisal said. "But the kingdom would never stand against an Arab consensus, as long as the Arab position has agreed on attending, the kingdom will walk along with its brothers in one line."
But he cautioned, "We are not prepared to take part in a theatrical show, in handshakes and meeting that don't express political positions. We are going with seriousness and we work on the same seriousness and credibility."