Sunday, March 4, 2007

Has Iran Accepted the Arab Peace Initiative?

President Ahmadinejad and Saudi King Abdullah held talks on Saturday night in Riyadh. The Saudi official news agency, Saudi Press Agency (SPA), reports that during the talks the two leaders discussed the Palestinian conflict and President Ahmadinejad specifically endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative.

“The two leaders underscored the importance of closing the Palestinian ranks, and the Iranian president voiced support to the Arab Peace Initiative, approved by the Arab Summit, held in Beirut in 2002.” (SAP, 4 March 2007)

What is the significance of Iranian approval of the Initiative? The Beirut Submit, held in March 2002, adopted a proposal put forward by Saudi Arabia offering a comprehensive peace between the Arabs and Israel, called the Arab Peace Initiative. The proposal stated that should Israel withdrew from all Arab territories occupied since 1967 War, provide a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, and recognize the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, then the Arab countries would in turn recognize Israel and enter into peace agreement with it.

By supporting the Arab Peace Initiative, as reported by the official Saudi news agency, President Ahmadinejad could have significantly changed the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict. AFP reports, however, that the office of Iranian president has denied the report.

"In the meeting of President Ahmadinejad with King Abdullah there was absolutely no talk about the 2002 initiative," Ehsan Jahandidieh of the presidential press office told AFP. (AFP, 4 March 2007)

Did Iran support the Initiative or not? The fallout from the report in the coming days can have significant political ramifications in Tehran.

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