Friday, November 23, 2007
"23/11/2007 Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Friday agreed to attend a US-sponsored settlement conference next week.
Arab ministers meeting including Saudi Arabia "have accepted the invitation to attend the Annapolis conference on a ministerial level," according to a final statement from the ministers.
The ministers had sent an urgent letter to the United States asking it to "explicitly" include the issue of the occupied Golan Heights on the agenda for the talks in Annapolis, near Washington, on Tuesday.
"US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has promised a positive response to the request and if we receive a formal positive response, Syria will attend," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem told a news conference in Cairo. President Bashar al-Assad has said Damascus will stay away unless the broader Arab-Israeli conflict is up for discussion, including the Golan, which Israel has occupied since 1967.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who has held a series of meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an attempt to draw up a joint document for the US meeting, urged the ministers to seize the "historic opportunity."
But some Arab states are skeptical about the chances of any concrete developments at Annapolis, and opinion polls published this week showed that most Israelis and Palestinians do not think it will succeed.
Olmert warned in comments published on Friday that a failure of efforts to find a settlement deal with the Palestinians would have "deadly" results for the Zionist state.
US President George W. Bush has invited Israel, the Palestinians and officials from more than 40 countries to Annapolis, with Washington hoping to widen the scope of the conference by enticing Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Syria to join."