March 27, 2010 - 12:00am

Arab states should prepare for the possibility that the Palestinian-Israeli peace process may be a total failure and prepare alternatives, the secretary general of the Arab League said on Saturday.

The official, Amr Moussa, did not specify what the alternatives might be. But one possibility is a revival of an initiative first proposed eight years ago under which Arab states would normalize ties with Israel in exchange for concessions on territory.

The Middle East peace process suffered a fresh setback this month when the Palestinians said indirect talks with the Israelis would not take place unless Israel reversed a decision to build 1,600 new homes in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

Speaking to Arab leaders here at a summit meeting of the 22-member Arab League, Mr. Moussa said that the peace process had reached a turning point and that it was time for Arab states to stand up to Israel.

“The peace process has entered a new stage, perhaps the last stage,” he said. “We have accepted the efforts of mediators.”

He also lamented the years spent in painstaking negotiations.

“We have accepted an open-ended peace process, but that resulted in a loss of time,” he said. “And we did not achieve anything and allowed Israel to practice its policy for 20 years.”

The alternative to the stalled peace process most favored by many states in the region is the Arab Peace Initiative, first proposed by Saudi Arabia at an Arab League summit meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, in 2002.

Under that initiative, Arab countries would normalize relations with Israel in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and a fair settlement for Palestinian refugees.

Mr. Moussa said the Arab League should also open a dialogue with Iran to discuss neighboring countries’ concerns about its nuclear program. He acknowledged that member states had differences with Iran but said they had common interests, too.

“I know there is a worry among Arabs regarding Iran,” he said, “but this situation confirms the necessity of a dialogue with Iran.”

Mr. Moussa also proposed creating a regional grouping that would bring together Arab states and Turkey.

Turkey has traditionally had close ties to Israel, but relations have soured in the past few months. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was a guest of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, at the summit meeting.

Colonel Qaddafi, who is taking over the Arab League’s rotating presidency, used his speech at the gathering to offer a rebuke over what he said was years of failure by Arab states to take strong collective action in standing up to Israel.


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