Amr Moussa:Take the Peace Process to the UNNovember 1, 2010 - 2:19 PM | by: Nina Donaghy
In an exclusive interview with Fox News Radio, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa confirms that serious discussions are taking place between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and member nations of the Arab League on taking the Mid East peace process direct to the United Nations. Listen to the interview in full on www.afewmomentswith.com
Speaking to us in Cairo, Moussa said that although the League will give the US – led process a chance to break the current impasse over Israeli settlement building, he sees no logical reason why the entire process should not be placed under UN auspices.
Q: If the US can broker another freeze of 2 or 3 months would the Arab League provide cover for President Abbas to continue negotiating, even after a temporary freeze?
Moussa : “Number one – in the intervening period since 26th of September a lot of settlement licenses have been allowed , so this should be rescinded and the continuation should be continuation since September. That’s number one. Number two, I disagree with the word cover. We support, we do not provide cover to the Palestinians or Abu Mazan, we support their position, not cover whatever they want to do and this is a discussion that is going on between them and the Arab League and they put us in the picture as to the minute details as to whatever contacts or letters or commitments that they have.
This is year 20 of the peace process that started in Madrid in 1991. So after 20 years we have seen everything. We have seen a lot of promises and a lot of commitments oral and otherwise. We find that we cannot continue along the same path, building our position on whatever promises are coming from whatever direction.
What we need is a serious commitment, a serious process, a time frame and no changes should be allowed within the occupied territories, which is the subject of the negotiations.
Q : Should the Palestinians have started with negotiating on borders not settlements?
Moussa : “This is rhetoric – the settlement policy is the essence of the whole thing because it would affect the border, it would affect the negotiations. What are we negotiating about ? The border – which is basically the line before 1967 – is there, but now, if you build beyond that line then continue to build, then persist in building , and then reject any restrictions on building, then this is a different story. It is not the question of the borders it is a question of the territory itself. The territory is rendered useless to establish a Palestinian state, whether the border is line A to B or line A to C , but the whole thing is being under total change contrary to international law and what the essence of negotiation is all about.
Q: Will the Palestinians seek UN approval for Palestinian state ? Will you back this ?
Moussa : “I’ll tell you in all candor that the prevailing view is that the peace process has failed.
This is year 20, so we know everything, all arguments, talks, promises, commitments, documents have been mentioned have been stretched, have been moved , time and again for those 20 years. If we continue again based on promises, they will not permit settlements, then they permit. This means the process of negotiations will fail, if not already failed.
The prevailing view is that it is useless to move along the path of negotiations without stopping once and for all the question of settlements and then after they agree, whatever the Israelis have or the Palestinians have on East or West sides of the borders they can do whatever they want. Until then nothing should be done by way of changing the issue of negotiations itself, the territorial aspect of the state.
You have heard President Abbas before yesterday talking about a lot of alternatives. The first alternative in his opinion is to proceed on the path of negotiations but on the basis that we have explained – no settlements then the negotiations will go on.
We have started indeed to discuss the alternatives. One of the most important alternatives is to get back to the United Nations.
Back in 1991, after Madrid we were told that the best way was to have an honest broker that would help bring the two parties together with suggestions, with proposals, with maps with advice, to help the two parties move on. This did not happen. So why not think of bringing back the file to the United Nations?
Q: Will you ask the UN to declare any settlements past 1967 illegal?
Moussa: There are already enough resolutions by the United Nations. There is a legal opinion by the International Court of Justice that the settlements and the fence, the wall, are illegal. Based on the International Court of Justice, based on the resolutions, there are several alternatives on what we can ask the United Nations to decide.
Q: What then in your opinion is the most effective strategy – a UN resolution on settlements or asking outright for recognition Palestinian statehood?
Moussa: Declaring the settlements illegal is important, but that is a reaffirmation of a position, that is not the point. The point is if want the file to be considered objectively with the engagement of the international community as represented by the Security Council and the General Assembly, this has to consider t peace process as a whole and not just one aspect of it.
You heard the minister of foreign affairs for France, Kouchner, saying if there is no way to declare, to reach the establishment of the Palestinian state through negotiations, there is no way but to go to the Security Council and declare the establishment of a Palestinian state.
This is a crucial time. If you want to put the Palestinians in two brackets through negotiations only and then you bring them nothing, imprisoned in a so called peace process that is unproductive, a month, six months go by and there no progress, this is very strange thing, then you are saying you don’t want a Palestinian state.
Q : You spoke of the need for an honest broker. How could the US remain in that role if you take this to the UN – what about their veto power?
We have confidence in President Obama , we do not want to create difficulties for him, but we dont want to shoot ourseles in the foot either. So what is wrong with the United Nations to sanction, support,the peace process itself and put it on a better track, a more effective track under the auspices of the UN but with the United States playing the same role. Why would they veto such a thing?
Give them something through negotitations and we will say ok, negotiations are productive, let them continue. But to put them in such an impossible situation, that means they are not going to get the rights, then the whole situation will deteriorate into violence and a situation that none of us want to get back.
Q: You said the 20 year long peace process in general has failed – but what of this very recent new push by the US? If the settlement issue can be tackled is there a chance?
Moussa : If the settlement issue is resolved by extending the moratorium, but extending it from the date and have no more building then there is a chance. But, a chance that must have its time limit, time frame, its not negotiations forever.
Q : Settlements is still the make or break issue ?
Moussa : Absolutely.
Q. How seriously are the Americans and indeed the Israelis, taking the original Arab peace plan of 2002?
Moussa : The Americans are taking it very seriously, the Israelis don’t want to see it, they won’t recognize it.
This is a commitment that we have put on ourselves. We are ready to recognize Israel, to normalize with Israel, provided that Israel respects its commitments. It is impossible to have an end to the Arab Israeli conflict whilst Israel is flouting every rule.
Q: There was a lot of diplomatic activity between the US and Syria immediately after the Sharm talks – has Syria made the strategic choice to rejoin the Israel – Syria track? Will they play ball with the American’s vision of comprehensive peace?
Moussa : The Arab – Israeli conflict has the Palestinian issue at its core. Whatever positive movement on any track is welcome to us. If Syria decides to go into talks they will decide on the basis of a situation they will see that has changed. The Israelis are very much stressing the question territory and want to have arrangements, just arrangements, to manage the situation while not withdrawing. Syria will not play this game. Syria wants to get their territory back, as the Egyptians have got their territory back, as the Jordanians have got their territory back.
Q: Is there any prospect of Hamas joining peace process?
Moussa : Oh yes, The Hamas leaders have stressed several times they are for a Palestinian state based on the borders of 1967.
Q: Many would say that Abu Mazen finds himself in an impossible position – that he does not represent half the Palestinian people. Is there any prospect that Fatah and Hamas could reconcile?
Moussa: The difficult position emanates from the fact he could not get anything. Had he suceeeded, then this difficult Palestinian situation would have been adressed immediately… If the situation continues there has to be a reconcillation. Hamas has declared they are not going to get in the way of Abu Mazen negotiating if he can come back with an offer for a referendum, then everybody can participate in this referendum.
Q : What ill it take ? Will Abu Mazen have to come back with real endgame agreements on all core issues?
Moussa : If there is something viable, something fair. All of us in the Arab world would sit and decide. If there is something fair then why refuse it? No Arab government can advise Abu Mazen to accept anything less than a viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Q: Is Jerusalem the deal breaker – that East Jerusalem must be the sovereign Palestinian capital ?
Moussa : Yes indeed, but this does not mean the partition of the city. East Jerusalem will be the seat of the Palestinian Government - the symbol of their sovereignty. The israelis will have the sovereignty of West Jerusalem. But, the city will remain the same, both Jerusalems will be part of a city open for all.
Q: What discussions are going on within the Arab League on Iran?
Moussa: There is concern of course. The nuclear issue for example is a very serious one. But, it has not been determined that there is a nuclear program in Iran, according to the IAEA reports.
I always maintain that the best way is to invite Iran into a process of talks between us and them, and put everything on the table – whatever aprehensions they might have, or we might have. Iran is part of this region yesterday and today, yesterday and tomorrow. The are part and parcel of this region. I have said publicly that the only way to talk seriously with Iran and for them to talk seriously with us, is on the basis of a broad agenda that puts all points of friction on the table.
Q: Should Iran become a member of the Arab League?
Moussa: No, only Arab countries should be part of the Arab League, what I am talking about is a neighborhood policy.
Q: Another , Arab – led diplomatic framework to complement the established P5 plus 1 process ?
Moussa : That would be a very good idea.
Q : Is Iran taking the P5 talks seriously?
Moussa : Their response to Lady Ashton’s invtation is positive. I believe this is a serious process. I hope that all will reach a deal that is acceptable to both, you cannot impose something on Iran
Q: Have the sanctions played a role in making Iran a more serious negotiating partner ?
Moussa: I don’t think so – the sanctions have affected the people more than any government .
Q: In Lebanon, the Special Tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri will soon announce is indictiments – Many expect elements of Hezbollah to be named
Moussa : I don’t join those who say we expect elements of Hezbollah to be indicted. You cannot predict things like that. I don’t want to enter into a very problematic issue, there is a lot of give and take . I believe that things like that should be subject to quiet diplomacy and not public diplomacy.
Hear the interview in full on ” A Few Moments With …” on Fox News Radio