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Arab League Summit Begins in Sirt, Libya, Focusing on Jerusalem

Gaddaffi named president of Arab League
Published today (updated) 27/03/2010 13:08

Bethlehem – Ma'an –

The rotating presidency of the Arab League will officially be handed over to Libya, ahead of the summit's inauguration on Saturday in Sirtre, Libya, replacing Qatar.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddaffi will replace Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani of Qatar as president of the Arab League. After the consultation session, this year's summit conveners will attend a closed door session to discuss five agenda items, including Jerusalem and the possible withdrawal of the Arab Peace Initiative.

While Arab leaders began arriving for the Sirtre symposium on Friday and Saturday, seven leaders confirmed they will not attend this year, including UAE Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, King of Bahrain Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah, and Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will not attend for heath reasons.

Meanwhile, Lebanon will not participate in the summit, while Saudi Arabia has neither confirmed nor declined its invitation to the 22nd series of high-level meetings.

Those leaders already present in the Libyan city include Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Sheikh Sharif Ash-Sheikh Ahmad of Somalia, Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan, Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad As-Sabah, and personal representatives of the King of Bahrain.

Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad also arrived in Sirtre, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh as well as Saud Bin Rashed Al-Mu'la, representing the UAE and Fahed bin Mahmoud Al-Sa'eed, the deputy of the Omani prime minister.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will also attend the summit, having been received by President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.

22nd Arab Summit kicks off highlighting rescuing E Jerusalem

SIRTE, Libya, March 27, 2010 (Xinhua) --

The 22nd Arab League Summit, billed as the "Jerusalem Summit" kicked off on Saturday in the Libyan city of Sirte to discuss a package of major issues, with protecting East Jerusalem from Israeli violation high on the agenda.

The summit has gathered Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, among other regional leaders.

While leaders of eight AL member states, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, are staying away from the summit.

Arab and international efforts to revive Palestinian-Israeli talks and Israel's determination to forge ahead with the construction of new settlement in mostly Arab East Jerusalem are due to dominate the two-day meeting.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa urged Arab leaders to look into available alternatives in case the peace process to end the Arab-Israeli conflict fails.

"We should study the possibility that the peace process fails and look into the consequences of that," Moussa said in his opening address.

Libyan leader Gaddafi said Arab regimes are faced with unprecedented and increasing challenges from the public in the Arab states.

"The Arabs are waiting for actions from this summit. They had enough of speeches and talks. The Arab citizens are currently rebellious and observing the situation," said Gaddafi.

In Thursday's preparatory meeting for the annual gathering of regional leaders, Arab Foreign Ministers' Council agreed to name the meeting as "the summit of supporting Jerusalem steadfastness."

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani handed over the summit's presidency to Libyan leader Gaddafi and said the joint Arab action faces a genuine crisis in his opening speech.

"It is not possible anymore to ignore the real crises the Arab action faces," said al-Thani, calling for forming a higher committee to present suggestion to address the various crisis challenging the Arab region.

The summit will also discuss a Syrian-proposed initiative for a mechanism to solve the inter-Arab differences.

Wu Sike, China's Special Envoy on the Middle East, attended the opening session of the summit along with other attendees including UN chief Ban Ki-moon, African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Abdel-Rahman al-Attiyah and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Editor: Xiong Tong

AL leaders agree to raise $500mn for Palestinians

Fri, 26 Mar 2010 01:10:46 GMT

Arab foreign ministers have agreed to raise 500 million dollars for Palestinians in Jerusalem (al-Quds), the Arab League chief said Thursday.

Amr Mussa said an agreement had been reached for the fund by foreign ministers preparing for an over-the-weekend Arab League summit in Libya.

The agreement, however, still needs to be ratified by Arab leaders at the summit. "Yes, they have agreed," Mussa told reporters when asked if the fund had been approved by the ministers in the Libyan Mediterranean city of Sirte, where the annual summit will be held on Saturday and Sunday.

The Palestinian Authority had put in a request for 500 million dollars (376 million euros) in Arab aid to help Palestinians in Jerusalem (al-Quds) cope with Israel's settlement drive. MGH/HGH/MMN

Moussa: 'Time to face Israel', ME peace 'a failure' Sat, 27 Mar 2010 13:49:00 GMT Font size :

Moussa has said the Middle East peace process depends on Israel's freezing settlement plans.

The Arab League chief cautions that the so-called Middle East peace process may be “a complete failure”, calling on Arab states to seek other alternatives. Amr Moussa's warning came on the first day of the Arab League Summit in the Libyan town of Sirte.

 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, however, told the summit of Arab leaders that there would be no alternative to indirect “proximity” talks on a two-state solution.

The two-day summit is being held amid Israeli plans to build new settlements in annexed Arab East Jerusalem al-Quds in defiance of international condemnations. “We have to study the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure,” Moussa declared to the summit.

“It's time to face Israel. We have to have alternative plans because the situation has reached a turning-point,” he said. The Palestinians pulled out of the 'peace' talks after Tel Aviv announced plans to build 1,600 more settlement units in East al-Quds, which was occupied by Israel in 1967 — a move considered illegal under the international law.

The 22-member Arab League plans to appeal to the International Court of Justice for an end to Israel's settlement expansion plan. The UN chief on Saturday urged Arab leaders in Libya to support indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks. "My message to you is that, whatever our concerns, there is no alternative to negotiations for a two-state solution," Ban claimed in an address at the opening session of the summit.

"I urge you to support efforts to start proximity talks and direct negotiations. Our common goal should be to resolve all final status issues within 24 months," he added. Ban further reiterated that "settlement activity is illegal and must stop." His remarks come a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tel Aviv's policy on East al-Quds would not change.

Observers point out that Ban's emphasis on continued talks with the Tel Aviv regime despite its defiance of the international community and even its own commitments is contradictory and a double standard. They add if the Israeli regime can defy the international community while the Palestinians are always demanded to make concessions, even on their basic rights, what sense does it make for the rest of the world to respect any UN decision?


UN Chief: All Israeli settlements in al-Quds 'illegal'

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 10:44:14 GMT Font size :

A camera crew stands outside the former Hotel Shepherd, where Israel plans to build an illegal settlement. The site is situated in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in al-Quds.

The UN chief says "all" Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem al-Quds is illegal, as Washington and Tel Aviv apparent row over plans to build more units. "All settlement activity is illegal, but inserting settlers into Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem (al-Quds) is particularly troubling,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council in New York, quoted by The New York Times.

“This leads to tensions and undermines prospects for addressing the final status of Jerusalem (al-Quds),” he said. Ban's comments came as US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister continued their talks for a second day in Washington amid an unusual news blackout. "There are areas that they discussed last night, some of which they agree and some of which they disagree…

The conversation was honest and straightforward," the White House press secretary told reporters. "The president has asked the prime minister for certain things to build confidence,” Robert Gibbs said, refusing to give any further details. The Palestinian side has maintained that Israel must fully withdraw from the territories if it is serious about peace.

 In a statement released on Wednesday, chief negotiator of the Palestinian authority Saeb Erekat said that with the new settlements Israel was "digging itself into a hole that it must climb out of, if it is serious about peace."

Earlier this month, during US Vice President Joseph R. Biden's trip to Israel, Tel Aviv announced that it would soon initiate the construction of 1600 units in the Ramat Shlomo housing development in East al-Quds.

While the prime minister was in Washington for talks with Obama, the Israeli website, Ynet, also announced that another East al-Quds building project was underway, this time 20 units in the Palestinian populated neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Israel plans to build the units on the site of Shepherd Hotel, the former home of the late Islamic law scholar Haj Amin Husseini.

Contrary to UN's position, Netanyahu claims that Israel has the right to continue building in al-Quds. Latest news reports suggest that Obama has withdrawn from the position of asking Israel to stop settlement construction.

According to a Washington Post article on Thursday, Obama has asked Netanyahu to ensure that housing projects in East al-Quds "do not spoil the atmosphere for talks." Netanyahu told reporters that he was hopeful of a compromise over the al-Quds settlement issue after his visit to Washington. MJ/MB

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