Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Hoping for the best

A much talked about summit is about to take place. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, not to mention the Quartet of Russia, the EU, the US, and the UN, which is steering these diplomatic talks, will be in attendance.


Arab leaders arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday ahead of a summit set to revive a five-year-old plan to end decades of Israeli-Arab conflict at the heart of the region's problems.

The two-day Arab summit, due to open on Wednesday, is expected to renew an offer to the Jewish state of normal ties with all Arab countries if it withdraws from all territories it occupied in the 1967 war, accepts the creation of a Palestinian state and agrees to a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Israel to seize on the Arab offer, describing it as a last chance for Israel to live in a "sea of peace" across the Arab and Islamic world.
The meeting will also tackle other crises, including the Iraq conflict that has divided Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims across the region and a political standoff between the Western-backed government and the pro-Iranian opposition in Lebanon.
The Arab summit will also encourage the international community to end a political and financial embargo on the Hamas-led Palestinian unity government.

Sounds all fine and well, right? Arab states recognize Israel if Israel returns to its legal borders. If only the world, and its politics, was that simple. Possibly the biggest problem is that of the Palestinian refugees.

There was some good news in Palestine a while back about rival political factions Fatah and Hamas finally coming together and forming a unity government. So far, the government has worked, with one still-outstanding problem: lack of international recognition. That breakthrough took place in Saudi Arabia, which has been a keen diplomatic player because, as is the case with Egypt, it is an ally of the United States as well as an active Arab state. Expect to see more Saudi diplomatic action, and continued action by long-time Israel-Palestine peace actor Egypt, as there seems to be another spurt of sluggish — or superficial — progress in Israel-Palestine peace talks.

Although the State Department seems to be taking the Middle East diplomacy with stride, many are cautious of the Bush administration's new found diplomatic furvor. Between Bush's tour of Latin America, a peaceful deal being made with North Korea, and US Secretary of State Rice shuttling back and forth, trying to promote dialogue among Arab states, much seems to have changed in the Bush administration's often militant foreign policy outlook. However, policies on Iraq, Iran, and recognition of the new unity Palestinian government remain stubbornly static.

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