Tags: U.S. | Lauds | but | Doesn't | Endorse | Saudi | Peace

U.S. Lauds, but Doesn't Endorse, Saudi Peace Plan

Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:00 AM

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush praised Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah for his idea Tuesday morning in a telephone call with the de facto leader of the Arab nation. But the United States still sees the stalled peace plan drawn up by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell last April as the best map for reaching an accord, he said.

"The president welcomes all attempts to obtain a comprehensive peace," Fleischer added. "It's important to see what peace would be like at the end of the day ... the end of the day is very long in the Middle East.

"You know, there's just been so many negative notes coming out of the Middle East recently and, at least in this statement by the crown prince, it was a note of hope," Fleischer said.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Abdullah said his country would seek to normalize relations with Israel if Jerusalem withdrew from territory it occupied during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Before the conflict, all of the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian rule, the West Bank was part of Jordan, the Golan Heights were Syrian territory, and all of East Jerusalem - including the Old City with its sites sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews - were also Jordanian. Since 1967, Egypt and Jordan have ceded their territorial claims in favor of the Palestinians.

In his statements Tuesday, Fleischer referred only to a comprehensive peace. He did not mention the pre-1967 borders.

A senior State Department official Tuesday told reporters that through official U.S. contacts with Riyadh, the State Department has interpreted the Saudi proposal to mean that normalization would come after a negotiated settlement.

The prospect of a comprehensive accord, however, seems as far away as ever. Months of violence between Israelis and Palestinians have repeatedly pushed out of reach the Mitchell plan's first condition for serious negotiations between the two sides: a specific period of non-violence, followed by confidence-building measures. The Mitchell plan was drawn up by an international commission mandated by the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in October 2000, and headed by the former U.S. senator. In June last year, CIA Director George Tenet received written understandings from both sides in the conflict agreeing to terms for a cease-fire, but since his visit the violence has escalated. Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush praised Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah for his idea Tuesday morning in a telephone call with the de facto leader of the Arab nation. But the United States still sees the stalled peace plan drawn up by former U.S. Sen....
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2002-00-26
Tuesday, 26 February 2002 12:00 AM
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