London, Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin) has expressed his satisfaction with the results of the meeting of the Arab Follow-up Committee which ended in Cairo yesterday morning. Abbas told Asharq Al-Awsat on his arrival in Amman from Cairo that “the results are good and the most important one is that the Arabs support the endeavors to start the indirect negotiations. But they laid down conditions and stipulations and these are important for us and them.” He added: “The stipulations they laid down carry messages to the Americans. On the whole, we are satisfied with the final statement.”
President Abbas refused to talk about the date for resuming the negotiations and asserted that he has a leadership in Ramallah to which he must refer and obtain its approval first. This is the Fatah movement’s Central Committee and the PLO’s Executive Committee.
Abbas delivered a 39-minute speech at the committee’s meeting which began the night before yesterday. According to a Palestinian source which took part in the session and talked to Asharq Al-Awsat but asked to remain unnamed, President Abbas `said at the conclusion of his speech “I will comply with your decision. If you agree, then we will go to the (indirect) negotiations and give them a chance. If you do not agree, I will comply with your decision and will not go.” He added: “If there is a legal alternative, then give it to me. If the alternative is war, then I promise you that I will be at the front.” The source said Sheikh Hamad Bin-Jasim Bin-Jabr Al Thani, the Qatari deputy prime minister and foreign minister, replied to Abu-Mazin jokingly: “We, Abu-Mazin, fight with money only.” Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Ghayt commented jokingly too: “The ones who did not sign a peace agreement with Israel go to the war.”
The Palestinian source revealed that George Mitchell, the special US envoy to the Middle East, was personally in contact with all members of the committee during the meeting.
A source in the Palestinian delegation described the Arab committee’s decision as good because it includes an Arab agreement to resume the indirect negotiations for four months only after which the committee would meet in early July to assess their outcome. According to the source: “If we become convinced that the necessary progress has not been achieved, then all the Arabs will go to the UN Security Council and the Arabs will send the Americans a message telling them: We have given you the chance even though we are convinced that (Israeli Prime Minister) Binyamin Netanyahu is prevaricating and despite the provocative actions of Israel. Therefore it is not fair for you to continue to adhere to your traditional stand of using the veto always.”
Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the Emirates, and others took part in addition to the committee’s 13 members. All the members approved the decision to resume the indirect negotiations except Syria which expressed its reservations. Commenting on the Syrian stand, the Palestinian source said: “The Syrians choose when they have a connection with the Palestinian issue and when they do not have one.” It added: “The Syrians – so as not to anger the Americans – chose to disengage themselves from their commitment to the traditional Syrian pan-Arab stand toward the Palestinian issue.” It then expressed hope that that the Syrian stand “of not interfering in this Palestinian affair will be applied to all Palestinian affairs and that this is not a selective case” and said: “Is the talk about the pan-Arabism of the battle and the centralism of the Palestinian issue over?”