Jordan Times, Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Israel must quit Arab land to coexist with Muslims — King
AMMAN — King Abdullah on Tuesday called on Israel to end its occupation of Arab land to guarantee peaceful coexistence with the world’s Muslims and warned against a hasty US troop pullout from Iraq, in an interview with AFP on Tuesday.
“Israel, the European states and the United States should realise that the Palestinian issue does not only concern the Palestinians, but also has the sympathy of all Muslims from Indonesia to the Maghreb states,” he said (see the interview’s transcript).
“If Israel wants to coexist with more than a billion Muslims, it should end its occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands.”
The King also urged Israelis to accept the Arab Peace Initiative adopted at a summit in Saudi Arabia last month, saying it “reflects collective Arab will to build peace that puts an end to years of violence and suffering.”
“They also should acknowledge that this is a unique opportunity in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and that it is time they work to convince their leaders of the need to resume peace negotiations,” he said.
The five-year-old Saudi-drafted plan offers Israel normal relations if it withdraws from all land seized in the 1967 Six-Day War, and allows for the creation of a Palestinian state and the return of Palestinian refugees.
Israel rejected the plan when it was first adopted in 2002, but has now said it could serve as a basis for talks provided there were changes on the refugee issue, something the Arab leaders rejected.
Asked to comment on remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who said peace could be possible within five years, the King said: “Peace can be reached during a much shorter time, if goodwill prevails.”
“This opportunity may not be available in the future,” he said, reiterating that solving the Palestinian question and the issue of refugees were central to a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
King Abdullah, meanwhile, warned against a hasty US troop withdrawal from war-torn Iraq.
“Withdrawal from Iraq without setting a timetable and without preparing the necessary conditions that would ensure a strong central government able to run the affairs of the state and an Iraqi force able to ensure security and stability, may only worsen the problem and contribute to increasing violence and conflict among Iraqis,” he said.
Speaking in Tokyo, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki rejected demands by the US Congress for a timetable to pull out US troops, saying a withdrawal should be based on Iraq’s efforts to restore security.
For the Monarch, “the problem with Iraq is that Iraqis themselves are divided between those supporting US-led coalition forces in their country, those rejecting and resisting them as occupation, and those that seek to disrupt the political process and national reconciliation efforts.”
He also noted that Sunni Arab countries have channels of communications with Shiite Iran, which is accused by the United States and other nations in the region of interfering in Iraq and Lebanon.
“Arab states have communication channels with Iran which we hope will be in the interest of the region and its stability,” the King said on the eve of a brief visit to Paris for talks with outgoing French President Jacques Chirac.
“We as Arabs can build strong ties with... Iran, because what ties the Arab and Iranian nations is much more than what divides them.”
King Abdullah also reiterated that Jordan wanted to develop nuclear power for peaceful use and would discuss this with UN atomic energy chief Mohammad Al Baradei who visits Amman later this week.
“We in Jordan feel... the need to secure the transfer and establishment of nuclear energy technology as an alternative to importing oil for generating electricity and water desalination,” he said.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007