Officials in Jerusalem welcomed Friday evening the Arab League's decision to send its foreign ministers to next week's peace conference in Annapolis, adding that efforts toward drafting a joint document with the Palestinians would continue even after the delegations arrive in the US.
"The importance of the fact that 16 senior representatives of Arab countries will be supporting the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority should not be underestimated," a source in Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's office said. According to the source, the Arab League's decision "will add to the conference's relevance" and solidify the League's role in backing the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which are expected to be launched soon after Annapolis.
"The Arab League lived up to the world's expectations," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
Despite the decision, it is not yet clear whether Syria will participate in the conference. The Syrian news agency quoted Foreign Minister Walid Moualem as saying that although the United States has agreed to put the occupied Golan Heights on the parley's agenda, Damascus would decide whether to attend when it receives the schedule.
Earlier on Friday, Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab foreign ministers in Cairo that efforts to draft a joint document with Israel ahead of the conference have failed.
"We wanted through our negotiations to reach a joint document but unfortunately we could not agree on the wording because each side has its own point of view," the Palestinian President said. "Israel wanted to achieve gains, and we rejected it."
However, Abbas added that the peace conference was a "historic opportunity".
Israeli officials said the delay in drafting a joint document was partly due to the Palestinians' participation in the Arab League meeting in Cairo. They said efforts to produce the paper would continue in Washington prior to the parley in Annapolis.
Roee Nahmias contributed to the report