"NO!!"...Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, Friday
Saudi Arabia on Friday bluntly rejected US appeals for improved relations with Israel as a way to help restart Middle East peace talks. . .
President Barack Obama, Clinton and Mitchell all have been urging Arab nations to improve ties with Israel with confidence-building measures such as opening trade offices, allowing academic exchanges and permitting civilian Israeli aircraft to overfly their airspace as a way of demonstrating their commitment to peace.
US government sources have said in recent weeks that Obama's pressure on Israel to stop settlement construction has been accompanied by equal pressure on the Arab world to make some gestures of normalization toward the Jewish state at the beginning, and not the end, of the diplomatic process.
Obama's overtures to Saudi Arabia have, however, fallen on deaf ears so far, and a personal letter to Morocco's King Muhammad VI earlier this year to 'be a leader in bridging gaps between Israel and the Arab world' has not had any visible effect.
Clinton repeated the call in her remarks, saying the Obama administration wants "the Arab states, including our friends in Saudi Arabia, to work with us to take steps to improve relations with Israel, to support the Palestinian Authority and to prepare their people to embrace the eventual peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis."
"Saudi Arabia's continued leadership is absolutely vital to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace," she said.
A bipartisan group of more than 200 members of Congress delivered a similar message Friday to Saudi King Abdullah, urging him to drop opposition to the administration's appeal for intermediate confidence-building steps.
"We have been disappointed thus far to see the public reaction of your government to President Obama's request," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the monarch. "We urge you to assert a strong leadership role and help lead the Middle East to a new era of peace and reconciliation by stepping forward with a dramatic gesture toward Israel akin to the steps taken earlier by the leaders of Egypt and Jordan."
But Saud flatly ruled that out.... ....The Saudi stance is complicating Mitchell's efforts to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations....