Syria Will Not Attend Annapolis Conference, Unless…

Ibrahim Hamidi reports that Syria will not go to Annapolis because the Golan is not on the official agenda. [addendum: Helena Cobban says: "Read the original which says, 'Syria will not go unless there is a surprise…] Hamidi is one of the most reliable journalists in Syria. He usually gets the story first. 

Many will ask why Syria does not say yes to Annapolis even if the Golan is not explicitly on the agenda. I think the best answer is that President Bashar has said from the beginning that Golan must be on the agenda and that Syria must get a proper invitation. Neither condition was fulfilled. The State Department has given vague assurances that there will be a follow up conference that will discuss broader issues, including the Golan. Syria's invitation has come at the last minute and begrudgingly.

More importantly, however, Damascus is being asked to concede to America's strategy in Palestine and the region without getting any firm commitment that its own interests will be accommodated.

By going to Annapolis, Syria will be abandoning its ally Hamas and agreeing to fall in line with Washington's and Israel's strategy of starving Hamas-stan and fattening up the West Bank. Syria would also be expected to lean on its allies in Lebanon in order to further Washington's candidate for a President in Beirut. Without a firm commitment form the US that Syria will be on the road to getting back the Golan, it cannot make these concessions.

Washington is so divided right now that the only promise Syria can take to the bank is one made by President Bush himself. It is clear that Bush does not like Syria and does not understand or sympathise with its interests. Perhaps Damascus is wise to sit out this round of "peacemaking."
Here is Hamidi's article.
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Syria has decided not to attend Annapolis peace conference
Ibrahim Hamidi
Nov. 22, 2007, al-Hayat
The London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Thursday that Syria has already decided not to attend the upcoming U.S-sponsored Middle East peace conference to be held in Annapolis, Maryland next week.

"Syria has decided not to attend the Annapolis conference next week, because the issue of the Golan Heights is not mentioned on the agenda of the meeting," Army Radio quoted the Arabic-language publication as saying.

According to the report, Syria is waiting for the outcome of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, to be held in Cairo on Thursday, before officially announcing its intention not to attend next week's summit.

Syria has declared in the past it would only take part in the peace conference if the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from it in the 1967 Six-Day War, is on the agenda.

Syria received an official invitation to the summit on Wednesday. Charge d'Affaires Michael Corbin, the highest ranking U.S. diplomat stationed in Damascus, delivered the invitation letter to the foreign ministry's chief of protocol, the diplomats in the Syrian capital told reporters.

"The Syrians are getting what they want even if the Golan is not explicitly mentioned. The letter talks about United Nations resolutions and the Arab peace initiative, which Syria supports" one of the diplomats said.

"There will even be a session in the conference on comprehensive Middle East peace. Syria will be seen as deliberately trying to spoil Annapolis if it does not show up," the diplomat said.

The Arab peace initiative calls for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab land, including the Golan Heights. Peace talks between Syria and Israel, centered on normal ties in return for the Golan, collapsed in 2000.

Syria is under pressure from Russia and pro-U.S. Arab governments to attend the conference. Even Israel said it was in favor of Syria taking part and Jordan's King Abdullah paid a rare visit to Damascus this week to convince Syrian President Bashar Assad to send a delegation.

"Annapolis will not achieve its goals without Syria," Syrian journalist Ziad Haidar wrote in al-Watan, Syria's only privately owned daily. "Syria is being asked to throw its weight around. The attempts to isolate it have backfired."

 .
Addendum Nov. 22 2007
Syria Softening Refusal on Conference
By ZEINA KARAM – 3 hours ago
AP: Nov. 22, 2007

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria is softening its refusal to attend the Annapolis peace conference and already has won dividends, including a visit from Jordan's king that marked an end to regional isolation.

But as it bends, it risks alienating Palestinian militants and its ally Iran.

Syria was unlikely to announce a final decision on whether it will go to the conference until after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to be held in Cairo on Friday to map out a joint strategy.

Publicly, Syrian officials have said Syria would not go unless its demands for the return of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in 1967, are addressed.

State-run newspapers, which reflect government thinking, continued Wednesday to criticize the conference, calling it "suspicious."

But intense diplomatic activity toward Damascus and comments made by President Bashar Assad this week suggest that possible deals to secure Syrian attendance might be worked out behind the scenes. On Monday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he believed Syria's foreign minister would attend.

At a meeting of Syria's leadership Monday, Assad said the region is witnessing events that "could have grave impact on the future of the countries and peoples if they are not dealt with in a rational way." His words were taken to mean the peace conference in the U.S.

And the United States seems to have met some of Syria's demands to prod Damascus into going to Annapolis. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday the United States will give room for those other conflicts to be aired at Annapolis, including Syria's dispute with Israel over the Golan.

Despite sour relations between the U.S. and Syria, the Bush administration appears keen on a Syrian presence at Monday's conference in Annapolis, which would give the impression that Syria can be lured out of Iran's orbit and into the Arab fold. Syria, which the United States accuses of being a state sponsor of terror, is an archenemy of Israel and supports radical anti-Israel Palestinian factions.

"They want to show everyone that Syria can be tamed, taken away from the Iranian axis," said Ahmad Haj Ali, a political analyst and member of Syria's ruling Baath party.

"If Syria goes, it would have achieved what the others want without achieving anything for itself. The price will be extremely high," he said.

Syrian lawmaker Mohammed Habash said Syria was keeping its options open, but said Syria is not interested in going to Annapolis "to attend a carnival."

Habash said Syria is the "spinal cord" of a front that includes Iran, the "resistance" in Iraq, Hezbollah and Hamas. "If Syria goes to such a conference, it will naturally shake this alliance. So do not think for one second that Syria would go just to get a piece of chocolate over there," he said. "It would be political folly."

Hamas, whose leadership is based in Damascus, has dismissed the conference as lacking seriousness and only aiming at covering up a future American attack against Iran.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday called the conference "stillborn" and predicted it would not bring any benefits to the Palestinians.

غير راضية» عن مضمون رسالة رايس …
سورية «لن تشارك» ما لم تحصل «مفاجأة" سياسية

دمشق – إبراهيم حميدي     الحياة     – 22/11/07

 

قالت مصادر سورية رفيعة المستوى لـ «الحياة» أمس إن دمشق تنتظر نتائج الاتصالات النهائية في شأن وضع قضية الجولان المحتل على جدول أعمال المؤتمر الدولي للسلام، وإمكان اتفاق الدول العربية على «موقف موحد» خلال الاجتماع الوزاري العربي في القاهرة اليوم. لكنها أفادت أن «الإشارات المتوافرة حتى الآن عن المؤتمر سلبية».

وأكدت مصادر ديبلوماسية غربية لـ «الحياة» أن القائم بالأعمال الأميركي مايكل كوربون سلم صباح أمس رسالة الدعوة من وزيرة الخارجية الاميركية كوندوليزا رايس إلى مدير إدارة المراسم في الخارجية السورية عبداللطيف دباغ باعتباره قناة الاتصال الوحيدة بين السفارة الأميركية والحكومة السورية. وقالت إن رسالة الدعوة وجهت إلى سورية بصفتها عضواً في لجنة تفعيل مبادرة السلام العربية.

ولفتت إلى أن الرسالة التي لم تكن موقعة وليست مطبوعة على ورق رسمي، تتحدث عن أن المؤتمر «سيركز» على المسار الفلسطيني مع ذكر لـ «المبادرة العربية والقرارات الدولية 242 و338»، بهدف «تحقيق السلام الشامل» مع سرد للدول المشاركة بما في ذلك «الأطراف الفاعلة». وأشارت إلى أن رسالة الدعوة ذكرت عبارة «السلام الشامل» مرتين.

وعُلم أن جدلاً ثار في شأن الرسالة. وفي حين أشار الجانب الأميركي على لسان نائب وزيرة الخارجية ديفيد ولش إلى أن مؤتمر أنابوليس سيتضمن «جلسة للسلام الشامل مدتها 90 دقيقة» بحيث يمكن للجانب السوري أن يثير قضية الجولان، فإن دمشق لا تزال ملتزمة موقفها من أنها لن تشارك «ما لم تكن قضية الجولان على أجندة المؤتمر».

وتؤكد المعلومات المتوافرة أن القرار السوري اتخذ بـ «عدم المشاركة»، باعتبار أن قضية الجولان لن تكون مدرجة في جدول أعمال المؤتمر، بحسب نتائج الاتصالات حتى مساء أمس. لكن المسؤولين السوريين يتحفظون عن إعلان موقف رسمي في انتظار المؤتمر الوزاري العربي وحصول اتصالات مفاجئة، «على أمل الخروج بموقف موحد»، بهدف عدم استباق اجتماع القاهرة. وأشارت المصادر إلى أن بين الاحتمالات المطروحة أن تعيد رايس توجيه رسالة دعوة رسمية إلى دمشق أو أن تجري اتصالات سياسية في اللحظة الأخيرة.

إلى ذلك، أفادت دراسة تحليلية رسمية أن هناك ثلاثة احتمالات تقف وراء عودة المسؤولين الإسرائيليين للحديث عن إحياء مفاوضات المسار السوري، بينها العودة إلى «لعبة المسارات» بعد ظهور عقبات إضافية تهدد بفشل مؤتمر أنابوليس.

وكان رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي إيهود أولمرت قال في اجتماع لجنة الخارجية والأمن التابعة للكنيست (البرلمان) الإسرائيلي إنه يريد «سلاماً مع سورية، وانني مستعد لمفاوضات من دون شروط مسبقة»، بعد قول وزير الدفاع إيهود باراك إنه يؤيد «مبادرة سلام إسرائيلية شاملة تدفع بالمفاوضات مع سورية إلى الأمام».

وأفادت الدراسة أن هناك ثلاثة تفسيرات: «الأول، أن تكون البوصلة السياسية الإسرائيلية تمر بحال ارتباك بسبب ذلك العدد الكبير من التداخلات في عملية اتخاذ القرار بين الرأي العام الإسرائيلي والمؤسسات الدينية والعسكرية والأمنية المنقسمة بين الموساد الذي يرى أن سورية تسعى إلى المفاوضات فقط، وبين الاستخبارات العسكرية وشاباك الذي يعتقد أن سورية تريد سلاماً».

وتابعت أن الاحتمال الثاني أن يكون هناك «توجه حقيقي (للسلام) أفرزته مواقف وتحليلات قديمة على المستويين السياسي والعسكري في إسرائيل عقب حرب لبنان مفادها أن الخيار الأفضل هو السلام مع سورية لأن الحرب ستكون مكلفة من دون أن تفرز أي نتيجة سياسية أو عسكرية تسعى القيادة الإسرائيلية إليها».

وزادت الدراسة أن «الاحتمال الأخير الذي ترجحه الظروف الحالية وتوقيت انعقاد مؤتمر أنابوليس، هو أن تكون هناك رغبة في المناورة على مختلف الخطوط أو ما يعرف بلعبة المسارات».

Comments (41)


1. annie said:

From the very beginning Annapolis has been an exercise in futility. Syria is right in not attending.

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November 22nd, 2007, 2:49 pm

 

2. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Landis writes:
“By going to Annapolis, Syria will be abandoning its ally Hamas and agreeing to fall in line with Washington’s and Israel’s strategy of starving Hamas-stan and fattening up the West Bank. Syria would also be expected to lean on its allies in Lebanon in order to further Washington’s candidate for a President in Beirut. Without a firm commitment form the US that Syria will be on the road to getting back the Golan, it cannot make these concessions.”

Why is the secular Asad regime allied with the Muslim Brotherhood related Hamas? Why is that important to Syria’s strategy? Why is Asad supporting in Palestine an ideology he would never support at home? What does the alliance with the Hamas give Syria? Why shouldn’t Israel start arming the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria? Maybe Asad will like them also?

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November 22nd, 2007, 3:47 pm

 

3. Nur al-Cubicle said:

In diplomatic parlance, if you announce that there is going to be a followup conference to your conference, you are in effect declaring the first to be a failure before it gets off the ground.

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November 22nd, 2007, 4:16 pm

 

4. Murphy said:

I’ve always said that it was obvious that Syria would not attend this sham conference. That much was a given. The more interesting question still remains: What will the Saudis do?

Nur – good point.

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November 22nd, 2007, 6:08 pm

 

5. Helena Cobban said:

Josh, this seems like a bizarrely organized and very misleading post. You write: “Here is Hamidi’s article”, then immediately follow it with an English text that looks like an English-Haaretz report/ commentary on Hamidi’s article. But it is NOT AT ALL a direct translation of Hamidi’s actual article, which you have then copied in twice, in Arabic, beneath. (By the way, here is the link to the original in Arabic.)

You also misrepresent Hamidi’s report by omitting to note that the subhead says “Syria ‘will not participate’ [in Annapolis] unless there occurs a political [diplomatic] surprise”, which is notably less definitive than your interpretation. His article has a lot of detail that you completely fail to convey, as well. Your readers would do a lot better to read the Hamidi original or plug it into a translation machine, however primitive, rather than imagining that what you present is an English translation of the article.

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November 22nd, 2007, 6:30 pm

 

6. Murphy said:

“the subhead says “Syria ‘will not participate’ [in Annapolis] unless there occurs a political [diplomatic] surprise”, which is notably less definitive than your interpretation.”

Yeah-but that’s a diplomatic ‘out clause’. The Syrians – and everybody else – know perfectly well that there will be no ‘diplomatic surprises’ at this stage. However, by appearing to leave the door open, they are putting the onus for their non-participation at the door of the Americans. Quite rightly.

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November 22nd, 2007, 6:53 pm

 

7. norman said:

I think Syria will attend to prove that it wants peace knowing that nothing will come out of the meeting.

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November 22nd, 2007, 7:13 pm

 

8. Helena Cobban said:

Of course there’s still time for a political/diplomatic “surprise”! Why do you think all the Arab FM’s are heading off to Cairo for tomorrow’s meeting there? According to my reading of the Hamidi article, the Syrians are trying to play a very cute game at this stage. Certainly, to see how high they can push the political price they can get for a decision to attend. Also, to show that they should never be taken for granted…

The AP’s reporting out of Damascus today is also interesting

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November 22nd, 2007, 7:25 pm

 

9. Joshua said:

Dear Helena,
I published the articles exactly as Ibrahim Hamidi sent it to me in an email.

I have now edited to bring out your note that Hamidi is less definitive than my comments at the top suggest. In my own defense, I will point out that my comment on his article reads: “Ibrahim Hamidi reports that Syria will not go to Annapolis because the Golan is not on the official agenda.”

I think this is accurate. If the US places the Golan on the agenda between now and the beginning of the conference, Syria my indeed change its mind, but it seems quite clear that the US has no intention of doing this. Syria has been clear about its position from the start.

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November 22nd, 2007, 7:33 pm

 

10. why-discuss said:

After the humiliating Israeli attack on Syria, the 3 years old snubbing of the Europeans, the constant and recent US media attack on Syria, is it possible that Bashar would just flip from his allies, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and trust the arabs that have been only recently accusing Syrians of been murderers?
I would really be surprised if he does go to this ill-prepared social gathering of Anapolis whose clear aim is to break Syria’s solid alliances for some flimsy ones and to get Olmert and Bush out of their continuous failures. It would just reward insults and sanctions and Syria will just get vague promises.
If the US was serious it would have modify its behavior and its antagonistic declarations long before that hastily prepared meeting.

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November 22nd, 2007, 8:26 pm

 

11. Murphy said:

“Why do you think all the Arab FM’s are heading off to Cairo for tomorrow’s meeting there?”

For the same reason the puppets will line up in Annapolis: purely for demonstration purposes only.

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November 22nd, 2007, 8:27 pm

 

12. ausamaa said:

In very simple terms, if they “please” Syria and the Opposition in Lebanon as regards the presdential/political deadlock, Syria will probably go to Annapolis. If Lebanon remains hanging, or if the Feb 14 is encouraged to choose a confrontational path, Syria will not attend.

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November 22nd, 2007, 8:34 pm

 

13. Alex said:

Helena,

The situation is very unstable … everything is still possible.

But Joshua decided to go with a very reasonable prediction .. that a deal will not be finalized anytime soon.

If this administration wants to invite Syria with a bland letter … not signed and not on official letterhead … then Syria will indeed be attending the conference .. the one in Tehran.

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November 22nd, 2007, 9:46 pm

 

14. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Which is just as well. Israel and the US do not really want the Asad regime at the conference. There is no use in dealing with him and the rest of the Arab dictators can’t stand Asad either. Asad not coming will just highlight Syria’s isolation in the Arab world. I suggest Asad return to the idea of having an alternative conference with Hamas in Damascus.

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November 23rd, 2007, 12:38 am

 

15. Nur al-Cubicle said:

“Why do you think all the Arab FM’s are heading off to Cairo for tomorrow’s meeting there?”

They are examining exactly what the US and Israel are offering. But it is already known that the status of Jerusalem, the question of frontiers, the fate of Palestinian refugees, etc. will not be covered in Annapolis. Ehud Barak just announced construction, by the way, of new fortified housing for “settlers”. Moreover, the Israelis reject any idea of a calendar to address these fundamental issues which Abbas declared was a precondition to attending (he’ll go anyway). But I’m betting Saudi Arabia will not go. Contrary to what Helen says (as much as I respect her!) there will be no surprises at Annapolis outside of the weather.

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November 23rd, 2007, 12:48 am

 

16. Helena Cobban said:

Let’s all just read the original Hamidi article?

I truly wonder why you didn’t do that, Josh? I figured you had pretty good Arabic but are you now telling us you weren’t up to reading even the subheadings there?

(Also, Nur, I am not expecting any suprises at Annapolis, but maybe– including from the Syrian side– before then?)

Anyway, y’all can see more of my commentary on all this here.

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November 23rd, 2007, 1:14 am

 

17. Helena Cobban said:

Wow, Josh, I just noticed you’ve even edited the title of this post! (adding the crucial word “unless”.) That takes chutzpah.

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November 23rd, 2007, 1:15 am

 

18. norman said:

Helena ,
This is for you

Last update – 19:44 22/11/2007

Syria reportedly to skip summit, as Haniyeh calls meet ‘stillborn’

By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Tags: Annapolis, Golan Heights

Hamas’ Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh said Thursday that next week’s U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference is stillborn and will achieve nothing for the Palestinians, as the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported that Syria has already decided not to attend the Annapolis, Maryland summit.

“We realize that this conference was stillborn and is not going to achieve for the Palestinian people any of its goals or any of the political and legal rights due to them,” Haniyeh said outside the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City.

Haniyeh said Abbas did not have the mandate to make compromises in talks with Israel, especially over the demand of Palestinian refugees to return with their families to homes in Israel they lost during the 1948 War of Independence.
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“No one is authorized to compromise or to give up any of these rights, especially the right of return,” Haniyeh said.

Haniyeh also called on Abbas not to cave in to a recent Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. “We do not recognize that this state is Jewish,” Haniyeh said.

“Syria has decided not to attend the Annapolis conference next week, because the issue of the Golan Heights is not mentioned on the agenda of the meeting,” Army Radio quoted the Arabic-language publication as saying.

According to Al-Hayat, Syria is waiting for the outcome of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, to be held in Cairo on Thursday, before officially announcing its intention not to attend next week’s summit.

Syria has declared in the past it would only take part in the peace conference if the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from it in the 1967 Six-Day War, is on the agenda.

Syria received an official invitation to the summit on Wednesday. Charge d’Affaires Michael Corbin, the highest ranking U.S. diplomat stationed in Damascus, delivered the invitation letter to the foreign ministry’s chief of protocol, the diplomats in the Syrian capital told reporters.

“The Syrians are getting what they want even if the Golan is not explicitly mentioned. The letter talks about United Nations resolutions and the Arab peace initiative, which Syria supports” one of the diplomats said.

“There will even be a session in the conference on comprehensive Middle East peace. Syria will be seen as deliberately trying to spoil Annapolis if it does not show up,” the diplomat said.

The Arab peace initiative calls for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab land, including the Golan Heights. Peace talks between Syria and Israel, centered on normal ties in return for the Golan, collapsed in 2000.

Syria is under pressure from Russia and pro-U.S. Arab governments to attend the conference. Even Israel said it was in favor of Syria taking part and Jordan’s King Abdullah paid a rare visit to Damascus this week to convince Syrian President Bashar Assad to send a delegation.

“Annapolis will not achieve its goals without Syria,” Syrian journalist Ziad Haidar wrote in al-Watan, Syria’s only privately owned daily. “Syria is being asked to throw its weight around. The attempts to isolate it have backfired.”

The United States has invited about 40 countries, including Saudi Arabia and Syria which have no relations with Israel, to the meeting it hopes will launch negotiations to end the six-decade Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mubarak meets Abbas and Abdullah ahead of summit
Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians sought Thursday to persuade skeptical Arab nations to attend a U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace conference, insisting it could open the door to a Palestinian state in the next year.

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak held a mini-summit with the leaders of Jordan and the Palestinians in this Red Sea resort, bringing together the strongest Arab supporters of next week’s conference, to be held in Annapolis, Maryland.

Their meeting came ahead of a key gathering of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo Thursday night and Friday that will determine who will attend Annapolis and at what level.

Egypt insisted Thursday that Annapolis could mark a major breakthrough. Mubarak’s spokesman Suleiman Awad said the Bush administration was achieving progress that will pave the way to the establishment of the two states and an independent Palestinian state within the next year and before the end of Bush’s term.

“This is a commitment for a timetable that we hear for the first time,” he told reporters as Mubarak, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Abbas met.

Awad said Annapolis would launch serious peace negotations according to a timetable and with an agreed upon follow-up mechanism – all top demands of Saudi Arabia.

The United States is pushing for Saudi Arabia, which unlike Jordan and Egypt has no peace agreement or diplomatic relations with Israel, to attend – and to send its foreign minister. President George W. Bush spoke Tuesday by telephone with Saudi King Abdullah.

“We Arabs have several experiences of dealing with Israel that raise question marks about its seriousness, but let’s wait and see,” Awad said. “We have to believe them until proven otherwise.”

Saudi crown prince does not rule out Riyadh’s participation
Saudi Arabia has not ruled out the possibility of taking part in a Middle East peace conference with Israel next week, according to comments by Crown Prince Sultan carried by state television on Thursday.

“[Whether] the kingdom takes part will depend on a consideration of ongoing circumstances,” al-Ikhbariya television quoted the crown prince as saying during a visit to Moscow.

It would be a diplomatic coup for the United States and Israel if Saudi Arabia was represented at the summit in Annapolis, Maryland, on Nov. 27 by its royal foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the world’s biggest oil exporter, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and even turning up could be seen as a major concession and strengthen anti-Western groups backed by Iran.

Saudi officials have said the kingdom will attend if there is an agenda that deals clearly with core issues involved in setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Arab and Western diplomats say that after a week of intense diplomacy and brinkmanship Riyadh may decide at the last minute to send its foreign minister, but is more likely to send low-level representatives.

They say any change in the Saudi position could emerge after Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo on Friday.

U.S. President George W. Bush telephoned King Abdullah to formally invite him on Tuesday and Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair visited Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss the summit with the king and his foreign minister.

The United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan has also received an invitation from the United States to attend the Annapolis conference and Gulf sources said the UAE position should also emerge from the Arab meeting in Cairo.

“The media thinks the Arabs are looking for an excuse not to go, but they are in fact looking for an excuse to attend. They just need encouragement,” said one Gulf source.

“They need to find out who will say what and this should happen in Cairo. They will go, but the question is under which arrangement?”

The United States has invited about 40 countries to the meeting which it hopes will launch negotiations to end the six-decade Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It was unclear how far the conference would go in tackling the core issues – borders, security, settlements, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees – that have defeated previous efforts to end the conflict.

China confirms participation in summit
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi will attend a Middle East peace conference in the United States next week, a government spokesman said Thursday.

“We’re willing to take part in all international efforts that will be conducive to the proper settlement of this issue,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

Washington has organized the 47-nation conference to discuss the conflict over land, nationhood and rights that underlies Israel’s conflicts with its Arab neighbors.

China’s decision to take part reflects its more active role recently in world politics and peacemaking and growing commercial and diplomatic ties with the Middle East.

“I think the international conference … has attracted the attention of the international community, including Arab countries, and we all have high expectations and hope substantial results can be achieved,” Liu said at a regular ministry briefing.

China has sent peacekeepers on UN missions in Lebanon and Darfur and has used behind-the-scenes diplomacy in dealing with unrest in Myanmar and Sudan.

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November 23rd, 2007, 2:37 am

 

19. Nur al-Cubicle said:

The Beirut newspapers are out (Friday morning) and with respect to Annapolis, things don’t look good.

Abbas and Olmert won’t agree to a joint communique because the Israelis want a vague communique. The Israelis do not want to discuss any serious issue. The Palestinians are offered the usual chicken feed..troop carriers, Gaza strawberry exports, and the okay for sewage treatment plant. Meanwhile Blair has been dispatched to Riyadh which obviously means that the Saudis do not plan on going.

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November 23rd, 2007, 6:41 am

 

20. ausamaa said:

What is the purpose of this conference anyway??!!

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November 23rd, 2007, 7:36 am

 

21. Murphy said:

Good question.

Some suggest it is to ‘appease’ the Arab states before a possible attack on a Muslim country (Iran) in much the same way as the lousy Oslo process was dangled before them in order to get them on side in the first Gulf war. I personally don’t believe this, firstly because I don’t think an attack on Iran is imminent, and secondly because the conference is so devoid of substance that not even the most servile Arab govt (expect those who already have ‘peace’ with Israel) can be enticed to go. As appears to be the case.

Personally, I think it’s intended more as a way to forestall the – for Israel – disaster of the Arab League initiative, re-confirmed in March of this year. By providing an alternative peace track (so called) the Americans and Israelis have an excuse to avoid the Arab initiative. Far from perfect as this was, it did at least unambiguously demand a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, and some sort of ‘solution’ to the refugee issue. Clearly, this is unacceptable to Israel, which wants the land – all of it – but not the (non-Jewish) people. By pretending to be ‘doing something’, Israel can proceed with the status quo of having its cake and eating it too. With the full compliance of the Vichy government in Ramallah, of course.

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November 23rd, 2007, 7:43 am

 

22. Shual said:

There is no purpose in Annapolis. Even the plagiators [“I had a dream”- “I am a Berliner” – “Mr. Gorbatchov! Turn down that wall”] in the Bush-Admin knew that there is only a chance of 33% that the story will work.

But we should not blame Bush for this one this time, cause Annapolis is still a reaction on something we still have to worry about: Hamas – Gaza. The main strategy to split the Arabs and Palestinians into willing + moderate and the “axis of evil and beyond evil” and all those other wrong and failed ideas are like a bad maternity dress of a good pregnancy. History will say: “Waste of time”, but not because of the idea, because of the wasters of time in all those fractions from Barak to Olmert, Assad and Abbas, Mubarak and the Saudis. If there is no Gorbatchov, no wall will be teared down.

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November 23rd, 2007, 1:21 pm

 

23. Nur al-Cubicle said:

I actually find sighting the conference adjacent to a military academy offensive when discussing “peace”.

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November 23rd, 2007, 2:45 pm

 

24. Murphy said:

Hmmm…. seems like the Saudis will attend after all.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/23/world/main3535036.shtml

AS for the Syrians, they will not attend… or will they?

“But, he added, “we are waiting for final arrangements and it will take place in the additional talks,” which will take place in a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Washington on Monday, a day before the Annapolis conference. It was not clear if the comments meant Syria could still decide not to attend or to send a lower-level representative. “

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November 23rd, 2007, 3:34 pm

 

25. norman said:

Syria says Golan Heights on Annapolis agenda

Reuters
Friday, November 23, 2007; 10:17 AM

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – The United States has agreed to put the occupied Golan Heights on the agenda of the Annapolis peace conference but Syria will decide whether to attend when it receives the schedule, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Friday.

“The United States has sent confirmation that it will include the Syrian-Israeli track… the Golan… on the Annapolis schedule,” the Syrian news agency quoted Moualem as saying.

“Syria will decide whether to attend or not in light of the schedule it receives,” he added.

There was no immediate comment from Washington.

The Damascus government has repeatedly said it would only attend the U.S.-hosted conference, which aims to restart talks on Palestinian statehood, if the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, are on the agenda.

Moualem was in Cairo for a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to prepare a common strategy for the Annapolis conference on November 27. He said Syria learnt about the inclusion of the Golan through Arab ministers who contacted Washington about the issue.

Pro-U.S. Arab governments have been putting pressure on Syria to attend the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, even if the Golan is not explicitly on the agenda. Diplomats say there will be a session about comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace that addresses the Golan.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, David Welch, said on Tuesday that the Syrians were entitled to “express their views and their national interests” at the conference.

“We think it (Annapolis) represents an opportunity for all those who would like to make meaningful steps toward peace to come and represent their views,” he said, when asked whether Syria could raise the issue of the Golan Heights at Annapolis.

“We won’t turn off the microphone,” said Welch.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Dominic Evans)

© 2007 Reuters

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November 23rd, 2007, 3:39 pm

 

26. Joshua said:

Helena writes:

Wow, Josh, I just noticed you’ve even edited the title of this post! (adding the crucial word “unless”.) That takes chutzpah.

Dear Helena, I changed the title for you. Read the first lines of the post in which I explain. Don’t look a gift title in the mouth.

You are picking at nits.

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November 23rd, 2007, 3:40 pm

 

27. Murphy said:

It all sounds a bit ambiguous to me, Norman. Your article says that the Golan will be on the ‘schedule’ but not neccessarily the agenda. Maybe I’m reading too much into words, but in the article I linked to, Rice said something about hot there ‘will be time to discuss the Golan’ at Annapolis. That did not sound to me as though it would be officially up for discussion.

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November 23rd, 2007, 3:46 pm

 

28. norman said:

Everybody can see what he wants .

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November 23rd, 2007, 4:06 pm

 

29. Murphy said:

Who is ‘he’?

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November 23rd, 2007, 4:09 pm

 

30. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The Syrians do not want the evident to be clear, that they are isolated in the Arab world, and are crawling back to Annapolis. Yes, the Golan will be mentioned (by Syria of course), and that is enough for Syria apparently. Asad has badly overplayed his hand.

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November 23rd, 2007, 4:22 pm

 

31. Murphy said:

It’s really quite fun to see Israelis praise the very same Arab leaders that only a few short years ago they were blaming for all the ‘tewwowist’ activity on earth. Oh well, you dont’ expect the country which cozied up to the Apartheid regime in SA (not to be confused with the Apartheid regime in Israel) to show much by way of ethics in its foreign policy.

BTW where do you get your evidence that the Syrians are “are crawling back (sic) to Annapolis”? Last time I looked, they weren’t going.

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November 23rd, 2007, 4:31 pm

 

32. why-discuss said:

AIG

Sorry to disagree, it was a very well played hand by Bashar..
He said he would go under certain conditions. Now King Abdallah in person came to beg him to come, the arab league is trying to persuade him. Olmret is expressing his respect for Bashar. Bashar has played hard to get and will be rewarded if he does go. He will be praised by all the arab countries who will welcome him back in the arab commununity, open arms. He may also get some a present such as the cornering and soon collapse of Siniora’s anti syrian governement and the 1559 going on a shelf. Very well played hand, indeed.

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November 24th, 2007, 12:01 am

 

33. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why Discuss,
Always wishful thinking and no argument.
What Bashar first said was that he would arrange an alternative summit with Hamas. Now he is crawling back in to Annapolis without any of his conditions being met except that he can talk about the Golan. Bashar is as isolated as he has ever been in the Arab world. And imagine the humilation: Olmert just bombed your nuclear site and you are going to Annapolis to support him and even shake his hand? Bashar is indeed very very weak.

And Bashar just lost in Lebanon. There is no Syrian imposed president and Saniora has all the presidential powers.

But I am not surprised at your analysis. Many Arabs have consistently interpreted whatever has happened in the last 60 years as an Arab “victory”. Maybe if you looked facts in the face you could make better decisions.

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November 24th, 2007, 12:14 am

 

34. norman said:

AIG, here it comes,

U.S. Praises Saudis, Syria for Attending Summit
Listen: NPR’s Peter Kenyon

e Susan Walsh
Skyline of Annapolis, Md., on Friday. Annapolis will host the Middle East summit. AP

NPR.org, November 23, 2007 · The White House on Friday praised key Arab states for agreeing to attend next week’s Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, saying it was a signal that the talks would be productive.

The conference in the Maryland capital starts Tuesday and is expected to launch the first round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in seven years, which the United States hopes will result in the creation of a Palestinian state by the end of President Bush’s second term in January 2009.

“The Annapolis conference will show broad international support for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders’ efforts and will be a launching point for negotiations leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state and the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace,” said Karl Duckworth, a State Department spokesman.

The comments followed an announcement in Cairo by the Arab League that members of a committee tasked with exploring a Saudi proposal for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement would participate in the conference to be held in Annapolis, Md., on Nov. 27, with separate meetings before and after in Washington.

Earlier in Cairo, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations decided to attend, but the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, insisted he would not allow “theatrics” like handshakes with Israeli officials, saying the gathering must make serious progress.

Participation by the Saudi foreign minister was a key goal of the United States to show Arab support for the conference, but until Friday, the kingdom had balked at saying whether it would attend and at what level.

It appeared that Syria – the other major holdout – would also attend, since the Arab decision was a collective one. But, when asked about Syria’s attendance, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said “final arrangements” had to be made. Syria has insisted Annapolis address its demands for the return of the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

U.S. officials have said that Syria is free to bring up any issue it wishes at the conference, which will include discussions on a “comprehensive” Arab-Israel peace deal.

The Arab League decision, made after intense discussions late Thursday and Friday, meant that the members of a league committee tasked earlier this year with dealing with the peace process will attend Annapolis. Those countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

Of those, only Egypt and Jordan recognize Israel.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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November 24th, 2007, 1:01 am

 

35. Helena Cobban said:

Josh, with respect, your putting the word “unless” into the post title was not a gift to me, but to yourself. In the earlier, “unless-less” version, you looked fairly foolish– like someone who hadn’t even read the sub-title of the Hamidi article you were supposedly presenting to readers in the post.

It also seems to have been a fairly serious error that you simply cut-and-pasted into your post the text of an email that Ibrahim sent to you, with you apparently thinking that the first, English-language portion of it was a translation of his Arabic-language original. (“Here is Hamidi’s article,” as you wrote.) But guess what, it actually wasn’t, as a quick glance thru the English-language text would have revealed.

Any even half-capable reader would immediately notice that the English-language text made strange references that made evident that it was NOT an English rendering of an Al-Hayat piece. However, maybe many of your readers are neophytes. Which is fine. Except that I think you really owe all your readers an apology for having messed up this post so badly– and in such a misleading way.

Everyone makes mistakes, I know. But these ones here seem so serious that a far more thorough revision of the post– for accuracy’s sake– seems called for.

Water under the bridge? Perhaps. But I think your broader reputation as someone who deals carefully with texts and evidence, who can read the basic Arabic, and who knows what he is talking about with respect to Syria has taken a non-trivial battering with this one.

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November 24th, 2007, 1:40 am

 

36. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Here comes out? It just vindicates what I was saying. Syria is attending as not to show how isolated it is from the other Arab countries that did not even insist on the Golan discussion and back Syria.

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November 24th, 2007, 1:41 am

 

37. why-discuss said:

AIG

…and Olmert who just bombed Syria is welcoming warmly Bashar. They all look like fools!
I disagree that Bashar’s lebanese allies lost. In the contrary I think they won just because a pro-US president and anti-syrian president will not be elected despite the heavy US pressure. This US administration will be remember as the “chaos-generator” administration. With the usual heavy hand of the Bush and Olmert government style, I just pray that Anapolis failure will not be engender another disaster in the area.

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November 24th, 2007, 5:16 am

 

38. Alex said:

I don’t want to have anything to do with this no-good blog anymore …

First, Joshua messed up a post and …. it is obviously the end of this blog.

Then … this Bashar Assad that I have been trying to defend … has

1) “badly overplayed his hand”
2) “Just lost Lebanon”
3) decided to “crawl to Annapolis” … after he was just bombed …

Enough mistakes and humiliation … I will find myself a new team to align with … AIG … please advice … who are the smart ones? who are the winners? … who are the moral democratic ones?

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November 24th, 2007, 7:06 am

 

39. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,

The answer is simple: The winners are people like Americans, Candaians and Israelis that get to live in a liberal democracy in which the government actually cares for their welfare.

The losers are Syrians that have been oppressed in the last 60 years and whose human potential has been impeded. And your policy is the one perpetuating this loss an additional 50 years.

In 91 Hafez played Baker and Bush for suckers. That was a Syrian win. What is happening now is series of Syrian losses. Asad is a ruthless and despicable tyrant that has no qualms about murdering in order to advance his goals. He also does not care about the welfare of the Syrians, he only cares about remaining in power. It is difficult fighting such people, but it is possible. Mostly it is difficult because they hold their own population as hostages. The US and its allies are doing the right things. Asad will not be gone tomorrow, but he will fall and with a big bang.

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November 24th, 2007, 4:37 pm

 

40. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The simple fact is that the Arabs agreed to go to Annapolis without any precondition on a Golan discussion. They showed ZERO support for Syria and do not care if it shows up or not. They are going to be there anyway. Syria has never been more isolated in the Arab world.

Don’t you find it strange that Asad would be willing to talk peace to Olmert a couple of months after Israel bombed Syria? This is pure and simple capitulation and humiliation for Asad. Not only that, by going he is endorssing Fatah and Abbas and alienating his allies Hamas (that were not even invited). These are all very difficult pills to swallow, but Asad has to swallow them anyway.

He has no choice, because otherwise he will be the only Arab no show in Annapolis and it will become clear to the Arab street how isolated the Syrian regime is. He is getting too close to the point of being put in the Iranian/Shiite camp by the Sunni Arab masses.

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November 24th, 2007, 4:46 pm

 

41. Alex said:

AIG,

I can give you detailed answers to your questions, but … it is time consuming. I gave you a detailed answer to the analog/digital analogy here, but I did not hear your feedback.

So, to answer your questions above … it is simply your brain’s choice to see a mother in law

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November 24th, 2007, 5:28 pm

 

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