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Israel negotiator positive on Arab offer

03 May 2013, 11:00

United Nations - Israel's chief peace negotiator said on Thursday it's "good news" that the Arab peace initiative is negotiable and that Arab nations are supporting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians at a difficult time in the region.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters after meeting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday afternoon that it's in the interest of Israel, the Palestinians and the international community to resume peace talks.

"We need to find a way to do so, and we're working on it," she said.

Livni said US Secretary of State John Kerry "is completely involved, determined" to restart negotiations which have largely been frozen since 2008.

The original 2002 Arab initiative offered a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Muslim world in exchange for a withdrawal from all territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

Sweetening the offer this week, an Arab League delegation said in Washington that final borders could be drawn through mutually agreed land swaps.

'Tough neighborhood'

Kerry called the changed language a "very big step forward" and Livni welcomed it. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that any peace deal on his watch would be subject to a national referendum, backing a contentious step that could hinder peace efforts.

Livni said on Thursday that "the message coming from the Arab League is important".

One reason is that even though the situation in the region is very difficult "and we have states that are collapsing with all these problems, but yet, we have the Arab League supporting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and this is good news," she said.

"The other good news is that basically what they say is that the Arab peace initiative is not something which is take it or leave it, but it is negotiable," Livni said.

She said it is also a good message to Israel, to understand "that when we achieve peace with the Palestinians, hopefully, we can have peace with the entire Arab world."

"We live in a tough neighbourhood," Livni said. "It is going to be difficult, complicated, but the message coming from Washington after the meeting between the Arab League and secretary Kerry was quite a positive one."

- AP


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