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Friday, November 23, 2007

Syria won't go to Annapolis

One part of the country that Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert apparently will not be able to give away at the Annapolis conference mugging is the Golan Heights. That's because the Syrians won't be there to take it. Syria has ruled out attending the conference because the Heights are not on the agenda, despite the fact that the American sponsors said that anyone can raise any issue they want. That's one less country to be against us there. The report about Syria was in the London Arabic daily al-Hayat this morning, and it was widely reported in the media here.
"Syria has decided not to attend the Annapolis conference next week, because the issue of the Golan Heights is not mentioned on the agenda of the meeting," Army Radio quoted the Arabic-language publication as saying.

According to Al-Hayat, Syria is waiting for the outcome of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, to be held in Cairo on Thursday, before officially announcing its intention not to attend next week's summit.

Syria has declared in the past it would only take part in the peace conference if the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from it in the 1967 Six-Day War, is on the agenda.

Syria received an official invitation to the summit on Wednesday. Charge d'Affaires Michael Corbin, the highest ranking U.S. diplomat stationed in Damascus, delivered the invitation letter to the foreign ministry's chief of protocol, the diplomats in the Syrian capital told reporters.

"The Syrians are getting what they want even if the Golan is not explicitly mentioned. The letter talks about United Nations resolutions and the Arab peace initiative, which Syria supports" one of the diplomats said.

"There will even be a session in the conference on comprehensive Middle East peace. Syria will be seen as deliberately trying to spoil Annapolis if it does not show up," the diplomat said.

The Arab peace initiative calls for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab land, including the Golan Heights. Peace talks between Syria and Israel, centered on normal ties in return for the Golan, collapsed in 2000.

Syria is under pressure from Russia and pro-U.S. Arab governments to attend the conference. Even Israel said it was in favor of Syria taking part and Jordan's King Abdullah paid a rare visit to Damascus this week to convince Syrian President Bashar Assad to send a delegation.

"Annapolis will not achieve its goals without Syria," Syrian journalist Ziad Haidar wrote in al-Watan, Syria's only privately owned daily. "Syria is being asked to throw its weight around. The attempts to isolate it have backfired."
Meanwhile 'our friends the Saudis' are undecided as to whether to attend.
Saudi Arabia has not ruled out the possibility of taking part in a Middle East peace conference with Israel next week, according to comments by Crown Prince Sultan carried by state television on Thursday.

"[Whether] the kingdom takes part will depend on a consideration of ongoing circumstances," al-Ikhbariya television quoted the crown prince as saying during a visit to Moscow.

It would be a diplomatic coup for the United States and Israel if Saudi Arabia was represented at the summit in Annapolis, Maryland, on Nov. 27 by its royal foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the world's biggest oil exporter, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and even turning up could be seen as a major concession and strengthen anti-Western groups backed by Iran.

Saudi officials have said the kingdom will attend if there is an agenda that deals clearly with core issues involved in setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Arab and Western diplomats say that after a week of intense diplomacy and brinkmanship Riyadh may decide at the last minute to send its foreign minister, but is more likely to send low-level representatives.

They say any change in the Saudi position could emerge after Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo on Friday.
Haaretz reports that China is coming and Israel Radio reported about an hour ago that Oman is coming.


At 2:21 AM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

If only they gave a party and no one came...if only.


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