Fri, Sep 22, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Arab nations urge UN to revive peace process

MIDDLE EAST ROADMAP The original plan drafted by the `quartet,' including the US, Russia, the EU and the UN, has made little progress since first launched in 2003

AFP , UNITED NATIONS

The UN Security Council, acting at the request of Arab countries, was due to hold a rare ministerial meeting yesterday to discuss how to revive the stalled Middle East peace process.

The meeting, set to start at 3:30pm, was to be attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas among others. It was unclear whether Israel would be represented.

The 22-member Arab League wants a speedy revival of direct negotiations under Security Council auspices on several tracks: Israel and the Palestinians, Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon.

Arab countries hope that the 15-member council will at least issue a statement spelling out a mechanism to ensure implementation of the international roadmap for the creation of an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

But the roadmap, drafted by the Middle East quartet -- the US, Russia, the EU and the UN -- has made virtually no progress since its launch in 2003.

"What matters is that the roadmap determines where we will end up," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Gheit told reporters on Wednesday after a meeting of Arab ministers.

His Bahraini counterpart Khaled ben Ahmed al-Khalifa is set to address the council on behalf of the 22-member Arab League, the Egyptian minister said.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa noted that yesterday's council ministerial session was to be the first held at the request of the Arab group in "nearly 16 years."

Khalifa said the Arab nations "wanted to speak to the Security Council with one voice to urge it to get fully involved to revive the peace process and put it back on track."

The meeting comes a day after the quartet voiced its strong support for a bid by Abbas to form a government with Hamas, even though the radical Islamic group still refuses to recognize Israeli's right to exist.

The quartet also announced an agreement to extend for three months temporary emergency aid for the Palestinian territories, which are now ruled by a Hamas-led administration.

US President George W. Bush and Rice, both whom support Abbas and met with him in New York this week, have voiced deep skepticism about the formation of a government joining his Fatah Party and Hamas.

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