Britain’s Brown backs Arab Peace Initiative

LONDON (JTA) – Britain’s prime minister joined a call by Arab leaders for Barack Obama to make the Arab Peace Initiative an urgent priority.

Gordon Brown at a joint news conference here Monday with the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that having leaders from all 22 Arab states supporting the initiative and writing to the U.S. president-elect is an important development.

"It is the 22 Arab countries coming behind progress that can happen quickly in their view," Brown said.

The plan, first proposed by the Arab League in 2002 and pushed recently by Saudi Arabia, would exchange an Israeli return to 1967 lines for full peace with the Arab world.

Both prime ministers were very critical of Israel’s settlement activity, an issue that Brown has brought up often.

"We have consistently called for Israel to dismantle settlements," he said Monday. "I spoke to the Knesset only a few months ago and made it absolutely clear that Israel should freeze settlements and withdraw from settlements, and I stated that a future Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 borders" with Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. 

Brown and Fayyad met ahead of a two-day London Business Forum on Trade and Investment with Palestine. Prior to the conference opening, Brown announced the establishment of The Palestinian-Britain Business Council, which he said will "facilitate closer cooperation on trade and investment."

The British leader, a longtime advocate of an "economic road map," said the London conference will "promote Palestinian economic development, it will demonstrate the resilience of the Palestinian private sector, it will show the considerable opportunities for partnerships with the United Kingdom."

Fayyad arrived in London with 60 businesspeople from East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip seeking political and economic support.

The British government is limiting its economic support to facilitating meetings between the Palestinian businesspeople and more than 100 British conference participants.

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