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Moderate Arab nations back Obama initiative

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Moderate Arab nations reiterated their support for President Obama’s efforts to reconvene Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

The GCC plus Three grouping — comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council of Saudi Arabia and  its smaller Persian Gulf neighbors, as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq — "expressed their hope for rapid progress towards the resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

The statement was released Saturday after GCC plus Three representatives met in New York with U.S. officials on the heels of this year’s U.N. General Assembly. 

The U.S. officials had hoped to extract from the group a sign that it would recompense an Israeli settlement freeze with symbolic concessions to Israel, such as trade overtures.

No such suggestion appeared in the statement. Arab officials say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer of a qualified freeze that does not include Jerusalem and allows for "natural growth" does not go far enough.

The only allusion to broader peace was support for "achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East."

The statement praised Obama’s speech to the General Assembly "which calls for the re-launching of negotiations — without preconditions — that address the permanent status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem." Additionally, it "reiterated their call for a freeze on settlement activities."

It also expressed their "full support for the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian government led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad," a notable snub of the Hamas terrorist group, which controls the Gaza Strip.

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