Washington - Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Saud al-Faisal put the burden Friday on Israel to respond to an Arab peace offer, as he rebuffed the Obama administration appeals for immediate Arab peace gestures.
Speaking at a press conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Prince Saud implicitly rejected her past appeals for the Arabs to take quick steps toward normalizing ties with Israel, part of a bid to boost peace prospects.
He opposed the "step-by-step" approach, which he said has been tried and failed, and called for tackling core issues like Palestinian statehood and refugees.
"The question is not what the Arab world will offer," the Saudi foreign minister said after talks with Clinton in Washington. "The question really is: what will Israeli give in exchange for this comprehensive offer."
The Saudi-sponsored 2002 initiative calls on all Arab states to establish full ties with Israel in exchange for the Jewish state's withdrawal from all lands occupied in the 1967 war and the creation of a Palestinian state. The initiative, endorsed by the full Arab League, calls for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
But Saud, reading slowly and deliberately from a statement, said: "Israel hasn't even responded to an American request to halt settlements which President (Barack) Obama described as illegitimate."
He balked at a question from a journalist who asked what Saudi Arabia would do in return if the right-leaning Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu changed course and froze all settlement
activity. He said it was "not by making gestures, it is by delving into the real issues" that will lead the way to peace in the Middle East.
For her part, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the efforts of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to achieve peace in the Middle East, through the Arab peace
initiative, and expressed her thanks to the Kingdom for its support of the peace process in the region, stressing the Kingdom's leadership role in the process of peace.