Saudi plan offers 'complete peace'
March 10, 2002 Posted: 8:26 AM EST (1326 GMT)

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal is the highest-ranking Saudi to address initiative 
SHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt (AP) -- Saudi Arabia's foreign minister offered Israel "complete peace from Arab nations" in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands and the creation of an independent Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.

Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, speaking to reporters after meeting for an hour Sunday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, offered the most detailed Saudi comments on the kingdom's overture to Israel since it was first made public last month by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in a newspaper interview. 

Al-Faisal also is the highest-ranking Saudi to publicly address the initiative since then. ..

The push for peace has taken on great urgency in recent days as deaths in Palestinian-Israeli violence mount. 

But the Saudi initiative has been criticised by some Arabs, raising the possibility it will be altered before being formally presented to such an extent that the Israelis will reject it or deem it irrelevant. 

Egypt and other influential Arab moderates have welcomed the Saudi proposal as at least a basis for peacemaking. 

Al-Faisal said his kingdom would formally present the proposal at an Arab summit in Beirut, Lebanon, at the end of this month. 

"Arab nations stress their intention to realise a lasting and comprehensive peace but at the same time Israel must show its good faith toward peace," al-Faisal said Sunday. 

He called on Israel to withdraw from Arab territory captured in war and grant "the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, including the creation of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. 

"If it does that it will be met with complete peace from Arab nations." 

Al-Faisal said Abdullah and Mubarak have spoken at length on the initiative and both sides shared alarm at "Palestinian bloodshed." 

During the past week, at least 114 Palestinians and 36 Israelis have died -- the highest toll during any week since the conflict erupted. 

The week also saw the largest number of fatalities in a single day, 45 on Friday. 

Al-Faisal did not elaborate on the peace initiative or say whether a written draft had been prepared or whether it referred to the sticky issue of Palestinian refugees. 

Last week, Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath said an emerging draft referred to U.N. resolution 194, which says Palestinian refugees should be allowed to return to their homes or receive compensation for their losses. 

The refugee question has derailed previous peace efforts because Israel fears the return of Palestinians to what is now Israel would destroy the state's Jewish character. 

Al-Faisal did not answer directly when asked whether the Saudi peace proposal would be submitted if the Israelis kept Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat from attending the Beirut summit, but strongly indicated it would, saying the plan "is for the benefit of Palestine." 

Palestinian officials have said the Saudis told them that the peace initiative would be presented at the Arab summit only if Arafat was there. 

Arafat has been confined to the West Bank town of Ramallah since December, and Israel has said it would lift the travel ban only if Arafat tries to curb attacks by Palestinian militants on Israeli civilians. 

The Saudi initiative has won the support of heavyweight Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Syria, though Syria has said the refugee issue must be addressed. 

At an Arab League foreign minister's meeting Saturday in Cairo, Libya criticised the proposals, calling on Arabs to increase support for the Palestinian uprising. 

"I think those who were betting on the possibility of a solution with Israel have failed," Libyan diplomat Ali Abd al-Salam al-Turiki said Sunday in Cairo. 

"There is no possibility for such a solution. There is ongoing war. We have to take practical measures." 

Al-Turiki said a boycott of Israel could be among the measures taken. 

Arab attempts to revive economic campaigns against Israel have faltered in recent years as moderate Arabs states, including some in the Gulf, opened low-level trade ties with Israel. 

Amid the disagreements, the Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo was wrapping up Sunday without a formal statement on the Saudi initiative, according to Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa. 

Al-Sharaa said no initiative would come out of the Arab summit "that Syria has reservations about." 

Israel has shown interest in the Saudi initiative, though it rejects any full withdrawal from territories it seized in the 1967 Mideast war. 

The United States has called the ideas positive. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is to discuss them when he comes to the region this week.