Monday, May 11, 2009

KING ABDULLAH IN MED-EAST WARNING

File photo of King Abdullah of Jordan
King Abdullah is involved in devising a peace plan for the Middle East

King Abdullah of Jordan has warned that failure to reach an agreement for peace in the Middle East will result in a new conflict within 12-18 months.

In comments to the UK newspaper The Times, he said the US was finalising an ambitious "57-state solution" for peace that he is helping to prepare.

The king said the plan would include proposals to settle Israel's disputes with Syria and Lebanon.

His comments came ahead of Middle East debate at the UN Security Council.

Monday's meeting between foreign ministers is expected to underline the council's support for the Middle East peace process, says the BBC's Laura Trevelyan at UN headquarters in New York.

It comes at an important moment, she adds, with the US hard at work on a comprehensive peace strategy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to visit the White House next week, and Palestinian and Egyptian leaders have been invited to separate meetings in Washington.

In early June, President Barack Obama is to give a major speech on US relations with the Muslim world in Egypt.

In his interview with the Times, King Abdullah said that all eyes would be "looking to Washington".

"If there are no clear signals and no clear directives to all of us, there will be a feeling that this is just another American government that is going to let us all down."

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He also warned that if Israel procrastinated on a two-state solution, or there was no clear US vision on what should happen this year, Mr Obama's "tremendous credibility" in the Arab world would evaporate overnight.

"If we delay our peace negotiations, then there is going to be another conflict between Arabs or Muslims and Israel in the next 12-18 months," he said.

King Abdullah said what was being proposed was a "57-state solution" that would include all 57 member of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

"What we are talking about is not Israelis and Palestinians sitting at the table, but Israelis sitting with Palestinians, Israelis sitting with Syrians, Israelis sitting with Lebanese," he said.

The Times reported that a plan might offer Israel entry visas to every Arab country, the right of Israeli national airline El Al to fly over Arab territory, and the eventual recognition of Israel by all OIC members.

Israel would have to respond by halting the construction and expansion of settlements, and agree to withdraw from land taken since 1967.

The right of return of Palestinian refugees and the future status of Jerusalem would be negotiated within the framework of the deal.

Mr Netanyahu has not endorsed the establishment of a Palestinian state.

His foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has said the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was at a "dead end".

Instead of a two-state solution backed by the US and the EU, Mr Netanyahu is calling for a "triple-track" peace process that includes progress on the political, security and economic front.

King Abdullah said: "Just because there is a right-wing government in Israel does not mean that we should chuck in the towel."

"I think we're going to have to do a lot of shuttle diplomacy, get people to a table in the next couple of months to get a solution."

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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