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World News

Arab League sees little change in new Israeli government

CAIRO (Reuters) - The head of the Arab League said Thursday the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Israeli foreign minister changed Israel’s tone rather than its policy towards the Palestinians and a wider peace initiative.

Secretary-General Amr Moussa told a news conference at Arab League headquarters in Cairo that the previous Israeli government of Ehud Olmert had not abided by agreements on settlement building in the occupied West Bank and had ignored an Arab peace initiative.

“In my opinion the previous government of Israel did not honour the understandings on which the Annapolis (peace) conference and process was based,” Moussa said. “What the new foreign minister in Israel is saying is putting that in a blunt, very aggressive way.”

“The new style of talking is just a new style. It does not initiate a new position. We know the Israeli position is negative when it comes to peace, when it comes to initiatives of peace,” he said.

On his first day in office at the foreign ministry on Wednesday, Lieberman said the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis declaration of 2007 “has no validity,” confirming a shift in Israel’s stance towards the Palestinians under Netanyahu.

New Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Lieberman, an ultranationalist, as foreign minister as part of a broad coalition after elections in February.

The Annapolis understanding, between then-U.S. President George W. Bush, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, sought to advance final status talks over borders and the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Moussa said the Arab League had not changed its policy towards Israel since Netanyahu’s election in February and the formation of his government this week.

The European Union last week warned Netanyahu that ties with the bloc would suffer if he did not accept Palestinian calls for statehood.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp, Editing by Jonathan Wright

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