Arab News runs two article Tuesday on what Saudi Arabia is looking to achieve through its attending the Middle East Peace Conferenc in Annapolis.

The first reports on what the Saudi Council of Ministers thinks. It also covers King Abdullah’s conversations with King Abdullah of Jordan, conducted on Monday, and Middle East Envoy and former British PM Tony Blair…

ME Conference ‘Must Discuss Core Issues’
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News

JEDDAH, 27 November 2007 — The Council of Ministers insisted yesterday that the international Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, must deal with core issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict in order to be successful.

“The Cabinet expressed its hope that the conference will deal with core issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict to reach a just and comprehensive peace settlement on all tracks within a timeframe,” said a Cabinet statement after the meeting.

The Cabinet, which was chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, also said that the Annapolis conference, called by US President George W. Bush, should lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The Kingdom also stressed that the conference’s deliberations should be based on UN resolutions, the Middle East peace road map and the Arab peace initiative.

King Abdullah briefed ministers on the outcome of his talks with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is the Quartet’s Middle East peace envoy, adding that the talks focused on international efforts to revive the peace process.

Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal is leading the Kingdom’s delegation to the conference. Saudi Arabia agreed to participate in the conference after an Arab League meeting in Cairo. “It is no secret that I was reluctant until today. Had it not been for the Arab consensus at the meeting, Saudi Arabia would not have gone to Annapolis,” Prince Saud said after the Cairo meeting.

He stressed that participation itself was not the final goal, and that the Arabs were seeking an agreement that would safeguard their interests. “We are not going for handshakes or a display of emotions… We are there only to reach a peace which safeguards Arab interests and safeguards the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese lands,” he said.

The second piece is a reworking of an interview by Scott McLeod of TIME magazine with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal…

What the Saudis Want From Annapolis

Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal tells TIME magazine that he is optimistic about this week’s Middle East peace conference in Annapolis because of what he calls US determination “to see this through.” Continuous US mediation in post-conference negotiations, including pressure on Israel, he says, “can turn things around” and lead to a comprehensive settlement before US President George W. Bush’s term expires in 13 months.

But, speaking in Paris to Time correspondent Scott MacLeod just hours before his scheduled arrival in the US, Prince Saud warned Israelis that they would have no peace until Israel withdrew from Arab territories captured in the 1967 war. Saud, who will be the highest ranking Saudi to ever attend a peace conference with the Jewish state, added that he would not shake the hand of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or make a symbolic visit to Jerusalem before a peace deal. “The hand that has been extended to us has been a fist so far,” he said. He warned Israelis against seeking a surrender, adding, “We don’t need a Versailles for the Arab world, a peace that will only be an instigator of future wars.”

TIME: Are you optimistic about Annapolis?

Saud: One of the elements of optimism is the sense of determination of the United States to see this through. Peace without the complete and direct involvement of the United States is impossible. The assurance that it is going to be a comprehensive peace that is pursued, to tackle the main issues of borders, Jerusalem, refugees, is certainly one of the elements.

November:26:2007 - 19:22 | Comments & Trackbacks (12) | Permalink
12 Responses to “What the Saudis Want from Annapolis”
  1. 1
    AbuSinan Said:
    November:27:2007 - 11:00 

    The Israelis have already said that they are not going to discuss “core issues”. The spin in the American media is that the meeting will be a meeting to set up and agree to more meetings.

    The idea of talking about anything of substance has already been nixed. The Saudis knew this before coming.

    Besides, even if “core issues” were talked about, neither the Israeli PM nor Abbas have the support to make anything work with their peoples anyway.

    The whole thing is stillborn and everyone involved knows it.

  2. 2
    John Burgess Said:
    November:27:2007 - 11:45 

    Well, the Saudis have said they would not attend unless the talks were to be substantive. The Saudis are attending. That suggests that they think the talks are worth having. They’ve made it clear that they’re not interested in attending a photo-op.

  3. 3
    Right Voices Pinged With:
    November:27:2007 - 12:02 

    [...] The Arab states are now, ironically, changing their tune. John Burgess blogs at Crossroads Arabia on what Saudi Arabia hopes will come out of Annapolis, with the broader hope being a stable Israel, [...]

  4. 4
    AbuSinan Said:
    November:27:2007 - 15:21 

    We know what the Saudis said, and after today’s announcement it is clear that they attended even though the talks were indeed non substantive.

    The announcement was nothing more than I said before, an announcement about setting up meetings, to have more meetings, to try and maybe get something by the end of next year.

    No core issues at all were talked about. It was a photo op to announce further meetings, in the future. They might have said they didnt want to attend a photo op, but that is exactly what they did.

  5. 5
    Jason Said:
    November:27:2007 - 16:39 

    Yes, agreements to meet, but to meet often and to meet about core issues. If what the Saudis say is true and U.S. resolve is determined enough to see this through, then we may be looking at something historic. However, I doubt both Olmert’s and Abbas’s ability to sell the necessary concessions to their people, especially with Hamas in Gaza, Abu Mazen by far faces the more difficult task in house. However, I believe we are seeing this flurry of activity on the Arab-Israeli front because of the side effects from the war in Iraq, and Iran’s posturing.

  6. 6
    AbuSinan Said:
    November:28:2007 - 08:26 

    The problem is that the Israelis have stated that there are certain points they will not give on. Jerusalem and the right of return. Without those being on the table, in all forms, talking is a waste of time.

    I am of the belief that a two state solution is not possible. “Facts on the ground” have purposely been created to prevent any real, independent and viable Palestinian state from being created.

    I support a one state solution. One state, one people, one vote. That would be Israel a democratic state, nothing short of that will.

  7. 7
    Solomon2 Said:
    November:28:2007 - 09:58 

    I support a one state solution. One state, one people, one vote.

    So when do the Jews and Christians get to return to Mecca and Medina?

  8. 8
    AbuSinan Said:
    November:28:2007 - 13:23 

    I am all for Jews and Christians going back to Saudi. You are after a looser on that one.

    I no more support an undemocratic “Jewish state” in Israel than I do a “Muslim” state in Saudi Arabia. The idea of having a state set aside for the advancement of one religious group is, at it’s root, very undemocratic.

    One person, one vote for everyone! Time for the only “democratic state” in the Middle East to actually be a democracy.

  9. 9
    Solomon2 Said:
    November:28:2007 - 14:23 

    The primary purpose nations congregate in specific geographic areas is for protection. The primarily Muslim Arab states of the Middle East and their citizenry do not currently demonstrate that they can tolerate the presence of Jews in their midst, certainly not as equal citizens, sometimes not even as visitors. Without some sort of mea culpa on the part of the Arabs, the likelihood that the Jews of Israel could survive in a Muslim-dominated single state is just about zero.

    Regardless of arguments about prior history, property rights, or religious obligations, this consideration of basic human rights is itself sufficient justification and just one of the arguments for Israel’s continued existence as a distinct entity.

  10. 10
    AbuSinan Said:
    November:28:2007 - 15:45 

    So, as long as you use “protection” as an excuse, you can set up a government in any manner and deny rights to those who you feel are a threat?

    Wow, I dont think Hitler could have explained it better Solomon. He was, after all, doing nothing more than seeking to “protect” the German race.

    If Israel was interested in equality, it would give equality to it’s Christian and Muslim citizens, but it does not. Non Jewish citizens of Israel face a wide array of discrimination, but any nation set up to promote one group of it’s citizens over other citizens is going to have this problem. Historically we could reference South Africa as a nation, set up to “protect” one group of citizens over another and other surrounding peoples. Rhodesia would be another good example of your theory in action.

    It seems like you dont have a problem with states set up on religious or racial standpoints. As a firm believer in democracy, my mind rebels at the idea of a state set up for the sole benefit of one group of citizens over other citizens.

    Not only do I reject the idea that any particular religious or racial group has the right to a nation, I reject the idea that such a nation should be imposed on peoples currently there who do not wish such a situation. In this case, and many others, it is “might makes” right.

    Kind of like saying, if I am strong enough and have the support of other peoples, I can come and steal your house from you and you hence forth have zero claim to it.

    In recent polls a majority of Israelis have stated that they are not religious, hence the idea of a “Jewish” state is pretty much moot anyways, as a majority of Israelis self-profess to having little or no Jewish identity anyway. Judaism is a religion, not a race, hence if the majority of Israelis do not practice Judaism, then it is not in reality a “Jewish” state anyway.

    Again, not that it matters. A state set up for the advancement of one group of citizens over another is not a democracy.

    Israel MUST either abandon all land taken in 1967, or it must grant a full and complete set of equal rights to ALL of it’s inhabitants, regardless of religion. If it does not it is NOT a democracy, it is in violation of International Law and UN Resolutions and should be made a pariah state by the entire world.

    To push the goal of a one state where all people, regardless of religion, are equal; the Palestinians should cease all violent actions and adopt a massive program of peaceful civil disobedience. This would achieve for the Palestininans in a few years what 50 years of armed conflict has not.

    Of course a peaceful campaign of civil disobedience is the last thing the Israelis want. For once it would cause a massive wave of international condemnation against Israel like it has never seen before. Not even the US could stand in the way of a completely non violent Palestinian call for “one person, one vote”.

  11. 11
    John Burgess Said:
    November:28:2007 - 16:18 

    We can do without evocation of Hitler and the Nazi on this blog.

    Comments like that are intended solely to inflame, not enlighten.

  12. 12
    Jason Said:
    November:28:2007 - 17:20 


    You obviously have problems with the ethnic based nation-state model that very much reflects the European state system. I agree it would be great if all states were capable of operating on the more heterogeneous U.S. model, but that just simply is not the case, regardless, even in this model there is discrimination. Dare I say, nationalism and state building is a human endeavor prone to imperfections.

    You are right, most Israelis are not religious Jews but that hardly negates from their Jewish identity, Jewishness is indeed something more than the religion. I live in Israel, I’m not religious, I’m not Jewish and I have no extreme feeling of moral obligation to the Jewish state, but let me tell you it is unique and a Jewish identity exists, albeit in great variety. One state is not an option for an Israel that wants to maintain that identity. Thats not to say that the Palestinian population, both in Israel proper and the territories, is not discriminated against, improvements do need to be made but we mustn’t deny the Palestinians here the ability to improve their own situation. If you have ever been in Palestine you would know that there are problems that exist independent of the occupation, internal Palestinian ills and I’m not just talking about Hamas. However, Palestinian civil disobedience would do little to hurt the Israelis as they have purposely made themselves economically self-sufficient, they did this during the mandate period. The Palestinians would be the ones who would suffer. Its a tragic situation and we can only hope that recent efforts to forge 2 separate states will be successful, especially with Saudi and U.S. influence.

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