July 31, 2009 / 10:34 PM / 10 years ago

Saudi Arabia rejects U.S. pleas on Israel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia Friday accused Israel of not being serious about peace with the Palestinians and rejected U.S. pleas to improve ties with Israel as a way of jump-starting regional peace talks.

An Israeli holds a placard during a right-wing protest in Jerusalem July 27, 2009 against President Barack Obama's demand to freeze Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said the “incremental” approach used by the United States to get talks rolling would not work and core issues must be tackled.

“Temporary security and confidence-building measures will also not bring peace. What is required is a comprehensive approach that defines the final outcome and launches into negotiations over final-status issues,” he said at a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

By final-status issues, Saud was referring to matters such as resolving the borders of a future Palestinian state, the fate of refugees, water disputes and the future of Jerusalem.

In blunt language, the Saudi minister said Israel was shifting attention from those core issues by focusing on Jewish settlement building on Palestinian territory.

“Israel must decide if it wants real peace, which is at hand, or if it wants to continue obfuscating and, as a result, lead the region into a maelstrom of instability and violence,” Saud said.

The Obama administration is urging Arab governments to ease sanctions on Israel if the Israelis freeze Jewish settlements, a move the United States hopes will lead to regional peace negotiations. Arab leaders so far have been cool to the idea.

“The question is not what the Arab world will offer,” Saud said. “The question really is: what will Israel give in exchange for this comprehensive offer?”

Saud said Israel was being asked to give back land that “never belonged to it in the first place.”

Asked whether the Saudi minister’s strong views complicated U.S. peacemaking efforts or if she saw them as a setback, Clinton said: “No, I don’t think so.”

She said the U.S. aim was to get agreement from the parties to begin negotiations with the intention of resolving all the issues in a “comprehensive way.”

“We know that this is all in the process that has to be undertaken and we are looking forward to seeing the parties sitting down at the negotiating table supported not only by the United States, but by other nations led by Saudi Arabia,” Clinton said.

The U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, has sought to get confidence-building measures on all sides in a bid to revive talks stalled after Israel’s invasion into Gaza last December in response to rocket attacks on the Jewish state.

Editing by Will Dunham

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