Arab League ministers to meet on Israel settlements

CAIRO – Arab foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting soon to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and Israeli settlement policy, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said on Saturday.

“The international momentum does not seem to be affecting the Israeli position and maybe will not, so we will meet to decide what is to be done,” Moussa told a news conference.

“It is now clear that the settlements issue will destroy any hope of peace and will break the course of Annapolis.”

Israeli officials have said Israel would allow construction within built up areas of existing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, but would not expand beyond those areas — a position that could widen the rift in U.S.-backed peace talks launched in Annapolis, Maryland, last month.

The Palestinians say the negotiations, the first in seven years, hinge on Israel committing to halt all settlement activity, including so-called natural growth, as called for under a long-stalled “road map” peace plan.

It was not immediately clear when or where the meeting will be held, but Moussa told the news conference: “We will have this meeting in a very short period of time.”

The call for the meeting came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Moussa said, adding it will also discuss Lebanon.

“The Lebanese crisis is an Arab responsibility and we are holding talks not only with Lebanese officials but also with others,” he said.

Hesham Youssef, Moussa’s chief of staff, told Reuters he was going to visit Lebanon in the near future.

“The timing will be decided in a few days,” he said.

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