Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL OF LEAGUE OF ARAB STATES
“We on the Arab side have shown through our initiative that we are ready for peace with Israel,” Amre Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference today, adding his hope for success at the upcoming conference this fall on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
He said, “We are ready to turn the page and this remains our position.” He emphasized the Arab League’s desire for “serious business” during the conference, proposed by the Quartet (the United Nations, Russian Federation, United States and European Union), and noted that he had been assured by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that her country held the same position. “We need this conference to convene and to succeed,” he stressed.
During a meeting between the Arab League and the Quartet earlier this week, a general understanding had emerged on the conference participants, seriousness, preparations and core issues. Emphasizing that the League had no interest in a photo opportunity, he stressed that what would be needed would be to “achieve real progress on the issues that compose the totality of the Arab-Israeli conflict”.
He also said that a moratorium on building settlements had been proposed at the meeting because their construction sowed havoc in the territories. “We cannot imagine that, while countries are sitting in the negotiating room, the Territories are being changed geographically and demographically,” he said, calling this issue a “making or breaking” point for the conference. “It would be a major negative point that would destroy the conference from the beginning.”
Along with the League’s meetings on the Arab-Israeli conflict during the previous 10 days, Mr. Moussa described its League’s numerous meetings on Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan and climate change as “very rich”.
On Darfur, he said that “there was a consensus that the issue should be pressed hard in the coming weeks”, adding that the upcoming meeting between the Government of the Sudan and the rebel factions would prove to be decisive. In addition, many African nations had begun pledging troops to the hybrid peacekeeping force, and humanitarian groups had also begun planning efforts. “I believe we see now a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to Sudan,” he said.
To a further question about the League’s possible contribution to a force in Darfur, he noted that the League had given full support to a hybrid force in Darfur from the time it was first proposed. It would contribute troops if the numbers pledged fell short.
Stressing that the political approach and reconciliation would be key to Iraq’s future, he said that the League would work with the Iraqi Government and the United Nations to address the situation’s regional dimensions. “We have already started talks with the UN to coordinate our policies and our activities in Iraq,” he said.
He noted that the League had followed the discussions on climate change closely, and expressed the hoped that all regional organizations would do the same and promote a collective approach to that eminent problem. He pledged the League’s support in that work.
Responding to a question on nuclear activities in the Middle East -– particularly those of Iran, he emphasized the need for a diplomatic solution, rather than a military solution, saying the latter would put “the whole region on the brink of major tension”. A component of making progress on the issue would be to make progress on the Arab-Israeli conflict. The absence of a solution to the Palestinian question created a very tense atmosphere in the region. Imposing a deadline on convening the international conference could be a catalyst for real progress.
On a question about relations between Syria and the United States, he noted that Syria would join the “follow-up group” to the conference, adding that Syria’s participation was necessary because the Arab-Israeli conflict extended beyond Palestine to include Syria and Lebanon.
(The Arab League Follow-Up Committee, made up of 12 countries, was established by the League to continue talks with the international community on the Arab proposal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians).
To a question on Somalia, he said that, while the League supported the Government, the President, the Parliament and the institutions, it also believed that all Somalis should be included in the reconciliation process. “We want Somalia to start again, so all those who can give a hand are invited to do so,” he said. In light of recent meetings, however, he acknowledged that the reconciliation process “needs more work”.
Concerning international protection for Government officials in Lebanon, he said that country had been a topic throughout the General Assembly. The recent dialogue among political groups there was progress. Hopefully, those groups would reach a consensus to reduce the number of presidential candidates by at least half. The Government officials deserved protection, but they did not need protection now. That would be considered, however, if it was requested, he added.
Asked about the gaps that existed between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the one side, and Syria on the other, on the subject of Iran, he said that the League was working to narrow those gaps. Doing so would require quiet diplomacy and allowing the Arab interests to be the guiding light for politics and policies.
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For information media • not an official record