Prince Saud: Move to final-status talks


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister called on the United States to move Israel and the Palestinians toward final-status talks.

Prince Saud al-Faisal said he told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that "a bold and historic step is required to end this conflict" during a news conference Friday at the U.S. State Department.

"Incrementalism and a step-by-step approach has not and, we believe, will not achieve peace," he said. "Temporary security, confidence-building measures will also not bring peace. What is required is a comprehensive approach that defines the final outcome at the outset and launches into negotiations over final-status issues: borders, Jerusalem, water, refugees and security."

Saud said the Arab world is offering Israel "an end to their conflict, recognition and full normal relations as exist between countries at peace."

"The question really is, what will Israel give in exchange for this comprehensive offer? And remember, what Israel is asked to give in exchange for peace, namely the return of the occupied territories, never belonged to it in the first place. Israel hasn’t even responded to an American request to halt settlements which President Obama described as illegitimate."

Clinton said the United States had asked the Arab states, "including our friends in Saudi Arabia, to work with us to take steps to improve relations with Israel, to support the Palestinian Authority, and to prepare their people to embrace the eventual peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Saudi Arabia’s continued leadership is absolutely vital to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace."

During a question-and-answer session with reporters following the leaders’ statements, Clinton downplayed the two countries’ differences over the peace process.

"There is no substitute for a comprehensive resolution. That is our ultimate objective," she said. "In order to get to the negotiating table, we have to persuade both sides that they can trust the other side enough to reach that comprehensive agreement. We also know that there are a series of issues that have to be resolved. As His Royal Highness said and as I have just repeated, you have to take those issues by issues, but within the negotiation for the comprehensive peace agreement."

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