‘Israel must withdraw from Arab land’: Saudi official

August 2, 2009
Israel Middle East Middle East peace envoy Osama Nugali Riyadh Riyadh Saudi Arabia

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia will not recognise Israel until it withdraws from occupied Arab land and makes committed steps toward a lasting two-state solution, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Osama Nugali also called Israeli policy “schizophrenic” and said it was jeopardising attempts to revive Middle East peace talks aimed at creating an independent Palestinian state. “Our position is well known. It is Israel that has to move seriously towards the peace process,” Nugali said.

“As we all know, Israel is continuing to take unilateral measures by changing the geographic and demographic facts on the ground, by building settlements and expanding the existing ones,” he said. “The Arab peace initiative is very clear,” he said, referring to a 2002 Saudi-inspired Middle East peace blueprint.

“That Israel should withdraw from the Arab lands and put an end to its occupation and resolve the major issues of the conflict,” he said, citing the future of Palestinian refugees, water-sharing issues, and the future status of Jerusalem as a capital for both states.

Such issues must be resolved “in order to achieve a permanent, just and lasting peace which is based on the establishment of an independent contiguous and viable Palestinian state,” Nugali said.

“In the Arab peace process normalisation comes after achieving these goals, not before it. So we should not put the cart before the horse.”

US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell on Tuesday called on Arab states to take “meaningful steps” towards Israel to help open talks on a comprehensive regional peace settlement, saying that eventually they should fully normalise relations with the Jewish state.

In addition, several US legislators have drafted a letter to Saudi King Abdullah calling on him to make a “dramatic gesture” towards Israel similar to ground-breaking overtures that ultimately led to peace with Egypt and Jordan. But the Saudis maintain that those overtures have not brought progress toward creating a Palestinian state.

Nugali said Israeli colony expansion in the occupied West Bank continues to prevent any progress, and the Palestinians have refused to restart negotiations until Israel freezes construction.

But Israel has rejected calls by the US administration to halt colonizing activity, leading to the worst public rift between the two close allies in years.

“We have been seeing a schizophrenic Israeli policy. On one hand you talk about peace and their interest to achieve peace,” he said.

“On the other hand they take actions against the peace process that complicate it and put it in jeopardy.”

Ref: GulfNews.com

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