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New Joint US-Arab League Efforts to Revive Mid-East Peace - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Secretary of State John Kerry, with Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby. (AP)

Secretary of State John Kerry, with Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Araby. (AP)

Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat—US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Arab League officials yesterday in an effort to revive the fading Middle East peace process.

Kerry, who has traveled to the region three times since taking office in February to meet with both senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, hopes to reinstate Saudi Arabia’s 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

The delegation made up of Arab Ministers, headed by Qatari prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani, endorsed the 2002 peace plan, but with “minor” shifts in Israel’s 1967 border, moving them closer to President Barack Obama’s two-state vision.

Sheikh Hamad said the Arab League delegation accepted the possibility of mutually-agreed and “comparable” land swaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

“This news is very positive,” Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told Army Radio on Tuesday. “In the tumultuous world around … it could allow the Palestinians to enter the room and make the needed compromises and it sends a message to the Israeli public that this is not just about us and the Palestinians.”

The US Secretary of State has made no secret of his hope to revive peace talks, which broke down in 2010, but it remains unclear whether President Barack Obama will decide to back a major US effort.

In convening the group, Kerry is trying to ensure that a new peace process would have the backing of the Arab states, who, if they were to offer Israel a comprehensive peace, hold a powerful card that could provide an incentive for Israeli compromises.

“We’ve had a very positive, very constructive discussion over the course of the afternoon, with positive results,” Kerry said at Blair House, speaking from a podium beside Al-Thani and flanked by senior officials from five other Arab governments. He praised the Arab League for the “important role it is playing, and is determined to play, in bringing about a peace in the Middle East—and specifically by reaffirming the Arab Peace Initiative here this afternoon, with a view to ending the conflict.”

Kerry said that he and Biden stressed the vision that Obama outlined in 2011, when he became the first American leader to publicly declare Israel’s pre-1967 lines as the basis for an Israeli–Palestinian settlement.

The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative would see 22 Arab countries normalizing ties with Israel in return for a withdrawal from lands it occupied during the 1967 Six Day War.