CAIRO: The Arab League called on the United States yesterday to keep up efforts to salvage Middle East peace talks that are on the brink of collapse, blaming Israel for a crisis that has led Washington to evaluate its role in the negotiations.
Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo yesterday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was “wholly responsible for the dangerous stalemate” in the US-brokered talks which are scheduled to wrap up on April 29.
“(The ministers) called on America to continue its efforts for the resumption of the negotiation track that obliges Israel to implement its commitments ... according to the agreed time frame,” a League statement said.
The US-brokered negotiations plunged into crisis last week after Israel, demanding a Palestinian commitment to continue talking after the end of the month, failed to carry out the promised release of about two dozen Palestinian prisoners.
Israel announced yesterday a partial freeze in high-level contacts with the Palestinians in retaliation for their signing international conventions it contends they are not entitled to endorse before formal establishment of a state. “In response to the Palestinian violation of their commitments under peace talks... Israel government ministers have been told to refrain from meeting their Palestinian counterparts,” an Israeli government official said, requesting anonymity.
Palestinian Labour Minister Ahmad Majdalani played down the significance of the move. “In any case there are no (regular) meetings organised between Palestinian and Israeli ministers, apart from the finance ministers,” he said.
Underscoring the Palestinians’ main concern — economic measures imposed by Israel — the Arab League said Arab states must meet their financial commitments to the Palestinian Authority “to provide an Arab financial safety net”.