In a dramatic response to an Arab peace initiative, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has invited Arab leaders to a regional peace conference to discuss their ideas for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Olmert also tried to soothe tensions with Syria, saying Israel has no plans to attack its northern neighbor and would like to reach a peace deal.
Olmert's surprise call for a regional conference came on Sunday during visits by German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- who currently holds the EU's rotating presidency -- and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Merkel, Olmert said, "I would take advantage of this important opportunity of being here in Jerusalem with the president of the European Union to invite to a meeting all Arab heads of state, including, of course, the king of Saudi Arabia, whom I regard as an important leader, in order to engage in dialogue."
He said each side would bring its own demands, and neither would try to dictate terms.
Olmert's invitation was the first time Israel has called on Saudi Arabia -- which has no formal relations with Israel but has also pushed recently for a peace deal -- to take the lead.
At a summit in Riyadh last week, the Arab League relaunched a 2002 Saudi peace plan that would recognize Israel in exchange for withdrawal from all captured territories and a just solution for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees. Olmert welcomed the decision but said Israel did not accept all parts of the plan, especially a return of refugees to properties inside what is now Israel.
"I think this new way of thinking, the willingness to recognize Israel as an established fact and to debate the conditions of the future solution, is a step that I can't help but appreciate," he said on Sunday.
While he proposed a regional meeting, he also said he would attend a meeting held under Saudi auspices. He said that if King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia were to invite him, moderate Arab leaders and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to a meeting "to present Saudi Arabia's ideas before us, we will come to hear them and be glad to offer our ideas."
However, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said that Olmert should agree to the Arab peace initiative.
"I think if he accepts the Arab peace initiative, it would open the way to many conferences, not one," he said.
Olmert also asked Pelosi to take a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad when she visits this week -- that if Syria stops its support for terrorism, Israel would be interested in making peace, Olmert's spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz yesterday said the army had been authorized to take limited action against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. He issued his warning after a series of Palestinian rocket attacks.
CAUTION: Taiwanese should be alert, even if they have just liked or shared posts that would breach Beijing’s national security legislation for Hong Kong, the council said Due to the newly implemented Hong Kong national security legislation, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has drawn up a list of what it described as “high-risk groups,” cautioning them not to travel to Hong Kong. People who support independence for Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang; those who are critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Hong Kong government and the “one country, two systems” concept; and those who donated to or voiced support for the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill movement are urged to refrain from visiting Hong Kong, the council said on its Web site. It released two posts on
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
MORAL COURAGE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the global community to face China’s intention to subdue Taiwan and reject such irrational requests The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday strongly condemned the Chinese government for meddling with US officials’ interactions with Taiwan after FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed China’s efforts to discourage US officials from visiting Taiwan. The greatest long-term threat to the US’ information security and intellectual property, as well as its economic vitality, is China’s counterintelligence and economic espionage operations, Wray told a video event at the Hudson Institute in Washington. Beijing is engaged in a highly sophisticated and maligning foreign influence campaign, with methods that include bribery, blackmail and covert deals, he said. Giving an example, Wray said that when a US official
NEW HONG KONG LAW: A visit to Beijing-friendly nations or those with weak judicial systems could leave people at risk of deportation to China, a former MAC official said Beijing could request countries with which it has extradition agreements to deport Taiwanese to China to face criminal charges following the implementation of national security legislation for Hong Kong, a former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) official warned yesterday. Some developing countries, and those close to China because of the Belt and Road Initiative, are likely to accommodate Beijing’s requests to extradite Taiwanese to China, said former deputy MAC minister Chen Ming-chi (陳明祺), who served from July 2, 2018, until May 20, and then returned to his former post as an assistant professor of sociology at National Tsing Hua University. While Taiwanese