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Flurry of Diplomacy Staged for Mideast Peace Conference
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In the latest diplomatic activity aimed at facilitating the US-proposed Middle East peace process, Jordan's King Abdullah II on Sunday conferred with visiting international Quartet envoy Tony Blair.


Abdullah told Blair that the upcoming peace conference should tackle various outstanding issues between the Palestinians and Israel, especially those pertaining to the final status including Jerusalem, the Palestinian borders and the refugees.


"To ensure the success of the peace conference, all parties concerned ... should work seriously in the coming few weeks to ensure that the meeting comes up with positive results ... in establishing an independent state on all Palestinian territories," said Abdullah.


The King suggested that the conference, slated for November, should lay out a working plan with a "specific timetable." He also urged the Palestinians and Israel to resume final status negotiations over those thorny issues such as the Palestinian borders and Jerusalem.


Blair is on a two-week-long regional tour in the Middle East, which had already taken him to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.


Blair is expected to report the outcome of his ongoing visit to the international Quartet, which groups the UN, the EU, the US and Russia, during its upcoming meeting slated for Sept. 23 in New York.


On July 16, US President George W. Bush proposed to hold an international conference this fall, which would bring together Israel, the Palestinians and some neighboring Arab states, to help resume the stalled Middle East peace talks.


In one of the first diplomatic activities to prepare for the upcoming conference, the two major roles, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, met in Jerusalem on Aug. 28.


The Israeli side said Olmert-Abbas meeting was "very constructive" and the two spoke about "fundamental issues that were necessary to bring about the establishment of two states for people." While the Palestinian side claimed that the meeting was "serious and in-depth."


Early this month, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met with both Abbas and Olmert and stressed that the coming months would see "intense" for peacemaking efforts.


Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema and Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer also paid a visit to the region.


Early this month, Abdullah also toured France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in his party's efforts to energize the peace process.


Questions and doubts among Arabs


With their intense diplomatic efforts, Arab diplomats and politicians seemed to embraced Bush's proposal and consider the upcoming conference a good opportunity to resume Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, which was at a deadlock since 2000.


Though so, the US-proposed conference is still facing many questions such as the agenda, real goal, the role of Syria, internal Palestinian political crisis, and among others. Many Arabs were doubtful over any significant achievement of the conference.


During a regular Arab League (AL) meeting held last Wednesday in Cairo, some of the Arab parties said the US initiative must be dealt with cautiously.


"Arabs should not be surprised that the real aim may be increasing normalization with Israel without a real breakthrough for the Palestinians," said an Arab diplomat on condition of anonymity.


AL Secretary General Amr Moussa said that the conference, if fails, would pose a threat to Arab interests and regional stability.


"A meeting, convened as a political demonstration without producing real substance, will not only be useless, but also will be harmful to Arab interests and the regional situation," Moussa said.


The AL chief said a serious peace conference requires the attendance of all Arab states directly concerned, apparently referring to Syria, which has not been invited so far.


The upcoming conference should be based upon the peace initiative adopted by Arab countries in 2002 and relevant UN resolutions, said Moussa, adding that it should also deal with final status issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.


Abbas also had much concern. He said late August that the incoming conference "lacks clarity" and it could fail if no clarification for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was devised.


After a meeting with Abdullah in Amman, Abbas told Jordan Television that the conference would not be useful if the participants go to it "without clarifications for a solution, and without a declaration of principles within a framework."


Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a veteran politician on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, warned that if the conference fails to produce a breakthrough, the negative repercussions would affect the whole region, increase feelings of frustration and strengthen extremism.


"This peace conference is an opportunity that should not be lost," said Mubarak. "Further political efforts have to be exerted to coordinate the stance of Arab and Western countries in a bid to secure the Mideast peace conference a success."


A clear frame, agenda and timetable should be clarified to ease the doubts about the significance of the conference, said Mubarak.


(Xinhua News Agency September 10, 2007)

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