Arab experts hold low expectations for Mideast peace conference 2007-10-08 03:15:21   Print

    CAIRO, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- As preparations and coordinating efforts are being made by both the United Sates and the Arab countries to ensure the success of a U.S.-proposed international conference on Mideast peace this fall, some Arab experts have expressed low expectations for the U.S. parley.

    Ahmed Maher, an ex-Egyptian foreign minister and an expert of the Egyptian Shura Council, at a seminar organized by the International Center for Future and Strategic Studies in Cairo recently, ruled out possible breakthrough on the unprecedented Palestinian division, said Egyptian Gazette, a local newspaper, on Sunday.

    Maher also said that the controversial conference was floated as Israel continued its attacks on the Palestinians.

    Why Washington insists on convening the Mideast peace conference at this particular time? Because the Palestinians are undergoing their worst time in view of the Fatah-Hamas rift and their chance for achieving political gains is nil, according to Maher.

    He saw no light at the end of the dark tunnel without a Palestinian unity, urging all the Arab countries to do their best in uniting the Palestinian factions before the conference.

    "Achieving Palestinian unity is the responsibility of all parties and Arab countries should exert utmost efforts to reach a real solution," Maher noted.

    In the meantime, former Palestinian foreign minister Zeyad Abu Amr, who was also attending the seminar in Cairo, insisted that the peace meeting holds no hope for the Palestinian people without a unified Palestinian agenda.

    Amr urged Hamas to accept the opening of a constructive dialogue with Fatah to unify their ranks at this crucial time, otherwise this gathering would fizzle out.

    Mostafa El-Fiqi, Chairman of the People Assembly's Foreign Relations Committee, called on Fatah and Hamas to coordinate their stances to put their house in order as Mahmoud Abbas is the President of all Palestinians.

    El-Fiqi, moreover, described the international conference as an attempt to whitewash the image of the United States, which was dented after its "big fiasco" in Iraq.

    Ahmed Youssef, head of the Arab League's Arab studies and researches institute, agreed with El-Fiqi. He noted that the aim of this conference is to cover the U.S. failure in Iraq and rally the Arab states to confront Iran.

    Egyptian journalist Makram Mohamed Ahmed said that the U.S. administration is in a desperate need of achieving a Palestinian-Israeli deal to compensate for its failure in Iraq.

    On Friday, U.S. President George W. Bush said that he was "very optimistic" that a Palestinian state could be set up alongside Israel and that the Mideast peace conference could lead towards peace in the region.

    Meanwhile, senior Hamas leader and former Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haneya has called on Arab countries to boycott the Middle East peace meeting, calling on Arab brothers, particularly Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to reconsider any decision to participate in this conference.

    Haneya ruled out the slightest hope in the conference, speaking out against "any normalization" of relations with Israel.

    On the Palestinian-Israeli front, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are deeply divided over the content of a joint document they are drafting for the Mideast peace conference, according to Palestinian officials.

    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas appointed top aides to find common grounds and the delegations are expected to begin negotiations on Monday while their opening positions diverge dramatically.

    Arab League Assistant Secretary General for Palestinian Affairs Mohamed Sobeih warned that Israel has not shown any sign to help restore confidence in the stalled Mideast peace process as they continue the military operations in Jerusalem and the building of wall and settlements.

    He noted that most of Israeli official statements try to downplay hope for the U.S.-brokered conference that could reach a serious peace document, because they are not serious in discussing final-status issues.

    So far, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries without diplomatic ties with Israel have been reluctant to commit due to lack of proof that the meeting will address the core issues, such as the issue of final borders, the status of disputed Jerusalem and Jewish settlements, as well as a solution for Palestinian refugees.

    Egypt, for its part, insists that the conference achieve a comprehensive settlement on all tracks, particularly the Palestinian issue, calling for a clear agenda of the conference.

    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to visit the Middle East in mid October, which will lead her to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Jordan. More coordinating efforts are expected during her visit, she is to follow up the outcome of ongoing Palestinian-Israeli talks and make preparations for the peace conference which is likely to be held in Annapolis, Maryland of the United States in late November.

    Earlier in July of this year, U.S. President George W. Bush proposed to hold an international conference this fall, which would include Israel, the Palestinians, and some neighboring Arab states, to help resume the stalled Middle East peace talks.

Editor: Yan Liang
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