Arabs welcome pullout as first step

Arab governments have expressed the hope that Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip will be followed by the evacuation of other occupied Palestinian lands and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

    Abbas received congratulations from several Arab leaders

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas acknowledged the "historic and important" nature of the Israeli pullout from Gaza after 38 years but denounced an Israeli insistence it would keep hold of its West Bank settlement blocs.

    Saudi Arabia, in a statement issued after the weekly meeting of the Saudi cabinet in Jedda, said it "looks forward to the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip being a step followed by other steps toward withdrawal from all occupied Palestinian territories so the Palestinian people can build their state, with Jerusalem as its capital".

    "The cabinet affirmed the kingdom's commitment to the peace initiative put forward by ... King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to the Arab summit held in Beirut in 2002 and adopted by the summit, thus becoming an Arab peace initiative," said the statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

    The Beirut meeting of Arab heads of state endorsed a blueprint, proposed by then crown prince Abdullah, offering Israel peace and normal ties in return for its withdrawal from occupied Arab lands. 

    Recovery of rights

    Lebanese President Emile Lahoud expressed hope "the withdrawal from Gaza constitutes the beginning of the recovery of all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people", Lebanon's state news agency quoted him as telling Abbas in a telephone conversation.

    Jordan's King Abdullah (R) urged
    Palestinians to pull together 

    Jordan's King Abdullah II urged Palestinians to pull together to prevent anyone from "hampering" Israel's withdrawal, an official statement quoted him as telling Abbas. 

    The king also gave his "support to Palestinian Authority efforts to impose its authority on territory evacuated by Israel", calling the withdrawal "a positive step which must lead to a withdrawal from the West Bank".

    In Kuwait, the cabinet voiced hope the pullout would be "the
    first step by Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories and will be followed by other steps in compliance with relevant UN resolutions". 

    Peace efforts

    A statement cited by the official Kuwait News Agency said Kuwait also looked forward to the Gaza withdrawal leading to the revival of peace efforts on the basis of the internationally-backed road map.

    The United Arab Emirates welcomed the pullout jointly with the US during talks between a top UAE official and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington, according to the
    Emirati Wam news agency.

    Rice and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Shaikh Hamdan bin Zayed al-Nahayan discussed the withdrawal and "welcomed [it] as an important step toward implementation of the road map and reactivation of the peace process with a view to achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the region", Wam said.

    Bahrain's King Hamad congratulated Abbas in a telephone call, saying he hoped it was "a step on the road to the establishment of a Palestinian state" with Jerusalem as its capital, the Bahrain News Agency reported. 

    Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh similarly expressed hopes
    that Israel would evacuate all occupied Palestinian and Arab
    territories and that an independent Palestinian state would be set up, the Yemen News Agency said.



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