Paris- Arab League (LAS) Secretary General Nabil Elaraby spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in an exclusive interview after attending the Paris convention dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Using ‘diplomatic honesty’, Elaraby exposed details on what had happened within the meeting, most importantly the poor conduct played by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on inhibiting the issue of bolder recommendations.
Elaraby emphasized that Washington, along a score of European nations, wish to turn around the Arab initiative, so that Arab countries would be the ones to provoke Israel for a settlement; an approach which has long been refused by Arab nations represented by the LAS Secretary General, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco.
Elaraby confirmed that neither amendment nor change could alter the Arab initiative. He also considered that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s interest in the Arab initiative stems out of the economic profits lying in his administration entering Gulf markets. He believes, wrongly so, that the way to the prosperous economies of the Arab world can be brokered by the Arab initiative, Elaraby said.
As for the Paris meeting, Elaraby considered it beneficial and a positive win for the Palestine question; however, he considered that a conference should be held for reaching implementation, like the Vienna1974 is convention.
He further explained that peace determinants are known and include international resolutions; therefore there is no need for conferences that only resolve to statements.
Following is a set of questions answered in LAS Secretary General Nabil Elaraby’s interview:
How can we evaluate the French “Middle East Peace initiative”? What can be expected from it and what should be done for it?
We have to thank France for calling on such a meeting. I have actually thanked them for the initiative. Paris started preparations for the meeting in September, 2014.
Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius had discussed the proposal with me in New York, and I had supported the proposition. After meeting in New York, Fabius came to Cairo and convened with the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Palestine) and the LAS Secretariat.
The French former PM had brought a score of proposals, however, no clear cut roadmap.
Moreover, the Paris meeting included 29 countries, regional and international organizations; and thus, it cannot be regarded as anything but a gain.
The Israel-Palestine conflict had remained untackled for years, and many of those attending the meeting considered the ongoing stagnation as unacceptable. This is also considered as another benefit.
It is positive. However, what we need actually is an executive mechanism and a timeline for a settlement. The determinants have long been decided unanimously by the U.N. Security Council.
It’s true that the meeting did not resolve to a mechanism for implementation, however, France confirmed that it would be calling for another meeting later this year.
Furthermore, forming work groups was discussed, but that is still not very clear. I believe that Fabius’ absence had influenced the outcome of the meeting.
Did Fabius’ absence affect the entirety of the French stance?
It is true; France said that it would recognize a Palestinian state, in case diplomatic efforts fail, however, the stance differed today.
In keeping with the subject, I would like to point out that the Swedish FM was clear in asking all attending nations to realize and recognize a Palestinian State. It was a very bold standpoint.
What are we waiting for now?
We need to arrive to a mechanism for implementation that, in my opinion, should be accomplished through the U.N. Security council. Therefore, I have referred to resolution 338 as a leading sample to what the U.N. S.C. can accomplish.
Was the style or sort of potential work groups made clear?
No, it has not been defined yet.
Three weeks ago, the French PM was in Israel. He had an interview with Tel Aviv’s daily “Yedioth Ahronoth”, in which French PM Manuel Valls said that Arabs must take steps towards reassuring Israel and encouraging it to take steps towards a peaceful settlement. What is your take on that?
The LAS will not accept any amendments or manipulation with the Arab initiative.
What could possibly have Israel agree to the solutions it had refused decades ago? Israel’s acceptance will not be for free. Its price is, entering the Arab markets, especially that it has been left without anyone forcing a solution.