The presence of high-level delegations from Syria and Lebanon at a meeting in which Israel is taking part outside the United Nations is the first in years, Arab diplomats said.

 

On the sidelines of the Euro-Mediterranean meeting, Lebanese Foreign Minister Jean Obeid told his Syrian counterpart Farouq Sharaa on Sunday that Lebanon rejects Israel’s conditional approval of the “road map” plan, an official said.

 

“The non-recognition on the part of Israel of refugees’ right of return is unacceptable”, the official quoted Obeid as saying.

 

The Israeli cabinet on Sunday voted in favour of a qualified acceptance of the US-sponsored “road map”. But it also passed a resolution denying Palestinian refugees the right of return.

 

Lebanon hosts 376,000 Palestinian refugees who lost their homes and property when Israel was created in 1948.

 

The majority of these refugees are Sunni Muslims and Lebanon considers that their permanent settlement in the country would disrupt its delicate sectarian balance.