Arab Consensus on Participation at Annapolis Conference

  • 25 November 2007

Arab Ministries of Foreign Affairs have decided to accept the invitation to the Annapolis Conference, which the United States has scheduled for Tuesday. The statement issued by The Arab Initiative Committee, clarified at the end of its deliberations held in Cairo last Friday, that Arab participation at the conference will take place at a ministerial level, within the framework of international resolutions, the Roadmap, and the “Arab Initiative for Peace.”

Arab consensus on participation at the Annapolis Conference has not come as a surprise, but was expected as US President George W. Bush had called for it two months ago. Undoubtedly, the consensus achieved on an Arab position on the conference is in itself a positive development as joint Arab efforts have suffered because of internal differences among Arab countries. The most important thing here is that this consensus constitutes a strong basis for Palestinian and Syrian negotiations to counter persistent Israeli obduracy and its avoidance of a political settlement. This consensus provides new impetus to collective Arab action for realizing peace in the Middle East and for resolving the conflict, which is considered as one of the main reasons that impede plans for comprehensive development in Arab countries. In this context, the important question will be the way this Arab consensus is utilized for initiating the process of political settlement, aimed at bringing comprehensive and permanent peace in the Middle East, in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy. In addition to the resolution of the UN for a political settlement leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian country, Security Council Resolution 242 seeks withdrawal of Israeli forces to borders existing before June 4, 1967, and a troop withdrawal from other Arab lands it had occupied during the war.

Arab people, after they agreed to participate at the Annapolis Conference, should make it meaningful, as Israel seeks to reduce it to a ceremonial occasion, change its agenda to enforce normalization of relations ahead of a political settlement. The agenda of the conference should be clear about all other issues involving Israeli-Arab conflicts and should form a body to negotiate these issues as per legal and relevant international resolutions in this regard. It is also necessary to establish a mechanism for implementing the agreed issues.

The Annapolis Conference presents an important opportunity for launching a new initiative, for the establishment of a Palestinian state through negotiations. However, Arabs should stick to the peace process and follow a schedule for resolving the conflict.