Turkey, Saudi Arabia denounce Israel’s settlement policy

Turkey, Saudi Arabia denounce Israel’s settlement policy

January 04, 2010, Monday/ 16:54:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Turkey and Saudi Arabia have called on the international community to take a “stern and serious stance” against Israel’s settlement policy, which continues to stall the Middle East peace process.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was scheduled to have talks with Saudi King Abdullah ahead of his departure for Turkey on Sunday. On Saturday, he had talks that included “ample” discussion of the Palestinian-Israeli problem with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, followed by a joint press conference.

Israel acts like a “spoiled child” and stalls Middle East peace talks thanks to easy international treatment, al-Faisal said at the conference in response to a question on restarting the Palestinian peace talks.

“We can’t reach a solution with the preferential treatment that Israel gets. In the international community Israel has become like a spoiled child,” he said.

Both al-Faisal and Davutoğlu called for Israel to halt all settlement expansion activities to enable peace talks to move ahead.

“There should be a freeze on the settlements in all the occupied territories and especially east Jerusalem,” Davutoğlu said. The Palestinians and their supporters maintain that Israel’s continued construction and expansion of settlements has blocked efforts from early last year to restart negotiations over an independent Palestinian state.

The two ministers, whose countries have played important roles in trying to relaunch the peace process, called on the international community to take a “stern and serious stance” against Israel’s settlement policy.

Davutoğlu enjoys visit to Turkish school in Riyadh

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu visited the International Turkish School in Riyadh on Sunday, the last day of his official visit to Saudi Arabia.

Davutoğlu, accompanied by his wife, Sare, spent almost three hours at the school. Delivering a brief speech upon his arrival at the school, Davutoğlu asked students what they wanted. He particularly appreciated the answer of a student who replied, “Our elderly ones should be honest.” After watching a folkdance performance by the children, Davutoğlu toured the classrooms in the school, where some of the children asked him for help in finding better educational conditions.

As he talked with the children in a kindergarten classroom, Davutoğlu said: “Say hello to your mothers and fathers. What will you say to your mothers and fathers? Whose greetings?” In response, the children said, “We will say hello from Uncle Ahmet.” Before leaving the school, Ahmet and Sare Davutoğlu distributed gifts to the kindergarten students. Ankara Today’s Zaman

Davutoğlu said Israel should end the “catastrophe and calamity” in the Gaza Strip and should freeze settlement building. The Saudi-Turkish discussions on the Palestinian problem came four days after Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Saudi King Abdullah held talks on the same issue and ahead of an expected trip to the region by US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell as well as ahead of a trip to Ankara by Abbas scheduled for later this week.

Saudi Arabia floated an Arab peace plan in 2002 that calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and east Jerusalem and a “fair” solution to the crisis of Palestinian refugees in exchange for normalized ties with the Arab world.

Al-Faisal and Davutoğlu also spoke about Iran’s nuclear program and expressed support for diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving international suspicions that Tehran intends to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear work is only for peaceful purposes.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are there to help Tehran to defuse the crisis with the help of dialogue and diplomacy, Davutoğlu said. Riyadh and Ankara want all countries in the region to abide by the provisions of international agreements concerning nuclear programs, he added.

The day after Davutoğlu had talks with al-Faisal, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was in the Saudi capital on Sunday for talks with al-Faisal designed to help reconciliation among rival Palestinian groups.

“We achieved great strides toward achieving reconciliation,” Mashaal told reporters at the foreign ministry. “We are in the final stages now.”

An Egyptian proposal to promote reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah group has called for presidential and legislative elections to be held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip next June.

In early 2009, as part of efforts to maintain a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, Davutoğlu, then chief foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had talks with Mashaal, who is exiled in Damascus.

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