|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Secretary-General of League of Arab States
At a Headquarters press conference today, Amre Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League stressed that a viable and serious process of negotiations for a peace settlement could not continue if Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Territories did not cease.
It was a “serious contradiction in terms” to be asked to continue negotiations, while settlement building affected the territorial integrity of the new State of Palestine, he said. Thus, extending the moratorium was “a must” and was a symbolic message that the Israeli policy was serious about this. “Negotiations cannot go with settlements.” However, he urged that all wait and see how the question of extending the moratorium was addressed over the next couple of days.
Asked for his views about United States President Barack Obama’s speech yesterday to the General Assembly, Mr. Moussa expressed his admiration for the President’s hope that Palestine becomes the 193rd member of the United Nations within a year. Such statements were “very encouraging”, but he stressed that the President was speaking of a “viable State of Palestine”, which required that East Jerusalem be its capital. Thus, Mr. Moussa hoped that the continuation of negotiations be encouraged and that outstanding items be resolved. However, he reiterated, that depended on the question of settlements.
As for President Obama’s remark that Israel was the historical land of the Jewish people, Mr. Moussa replied that that land was “the historical land of the Palestinian people. It is historical to whoever considers it historical”. Still he stressed, it had for centuries been an Arab country, and not only for the Jews. Emphasizing that the Arab League had nothing against Christians, Muslims or Jews, he stressed that the issue was one of occupation and discrimination against Palestinians.
Turning to a question regarding a vote this morning by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that narrowly rejected a resolution calling on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), he said that regardless of the loss of three votes on the Arab side, the work would continue and there would be another resolution next year. He added that last year, Israel had been called on to join the NPT as part of the efforts to rid the Middle East of nuclear weapons. Recalling the NPT Review Conference in May this year, which had called on all countries that had not yet done so to join the NPT, Israel’s actions did not build confidence pertaining to the joint work in the Middle East.
In response to the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, he stressed the need for a comprehensive peace along the three tracks —- Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, adding that that would require work beyond conference participation and hand shaking. What emerged on the Palestinian track would also emerge along the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. “This should not deter us from calling for the activation of all tracks and calling for a comprehensive peace.”
Responding to a question about the European States’ stance that Arab countries needed to commit more to financing the reconstruction of the Palestinian State, Mr. Moussa agreed that more support and more money were needed and that “we have to do more in order to help the reconstruction and preparation of the Palestinian entity to become the Palestinian State”.
Asked about the possible effects the negotiations might have on Lebanese’s politics, he emphasized that if the talks succeeded, it would have a “good, positive effect all over, in Lebanon, on the Lebanon-Syrian tracks and the general atmosphere in the Middle East”. Hoping that his belief that civil war would not take place was not just “wishful thinking,” he said it was important for all involved and for Lebanon, having suffered from wars both within and without and from aggressions on their territories, to “save” Lebanon from a negative posture or from a war inside its border —- “a war that nobody wants, nobody shall win”.
To a question about reports that United States officials say privately that they could envision a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East even with Israel’s retention of its nuclear arsenal, Mr. Moussa replied that the support of powerful countries of Israel’s position was on “the wrong track”. If that issue was not handled fairly, there would be an arms race in the Middle East. “It is impossible to have one country only possessing nuclear weapons.” Such a situation was “a recipe for disaster”. Rather than Israel being the only one with nuclear weapons in the Middle East, the region should be free from all weapons of mass destruction.
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