Saudi cabinet condemns Israel’s escalated settlement policy

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques praises identical Arab views regarding region’s issues, achievement of just peace

Saudi official source says Palestinian reconciliation dossier is fully in Egypt’s hand

Egyptian FM speaks about outcome of visit he and Minister Suleiman paid to Washington

Israel trains army for reoccupation of Gaza

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud chaired the Cabinet session at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh.

At the outset of the session, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques briefed the Cabinet on the contacts, meetings and consultations that took place during the last week with a number of leaders of brotherly and friendly countries and their envoys on the latest developments in the region and the world, including the talks he held with Jordanian King Abdullah II on the overall situation at Arab arena, the efforts exerted to achieve peace in the region, and Arab efforts to promote brotherly relations.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques briefed the Cabinet on the messages he sent to Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Egyptian President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. He also briefed the Cabinet on the telephone call he received from Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir as well as his meetings with Omani Minister for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi Abdullah, German Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques stressed that these meetings, contacts and messages come within the framework of consultation and rank unification to achieve Arab interests.

The King praised the conformity of views among the leaders on the various regional issues. The King stressed also the need to intensify efforts towards a just and comprehensive settlement of the peace process in the region, particularly in light of regional and international actions for the revitalization of the peace process. The King also emphasized the importance of intensifying efforts to achieve comprehensive and just settlement of the conflict which, in turn, will lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Al-Quds as its capital.

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) following the session, the Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz bin Mohieddin Khoja said that the Cabinet condemned the escalation of Israeli settlement policy, stressing that this escalation is a major obstacle to the resumption of the peace process and threatens efforts to revive it. In this regard, the Cabinet praised the European position which stressed the illegality of Israeli settlement policy which is a major obstacle to the resumption of the peace process.

Dr. Khoja said the Cabinet reviewed a number of issues on its agenda and issued the following decisions:

The Cabinet approved the establishment of baselines for marine areas of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf in accordance with the listed geographical coordinates attached to the decision.

The Cabinet approved changing the name of the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development to become Saudi Wildlife Commission.

The Cabinet authorized the Minister of Higher Education (or his deputy) to discuss with the Tajik side a draft memorandum of scientific and educational cooperation between the Ministry of Higher Education of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Tajikistan; and sign it.

The Cabinet approved extending the validity of the provision of paragraph 9 of the Cabinet's decision No. 23 dated 17/01/1428 H. for a period of two years starting from 17/01/1430 H. The provision states that the percentage of Saudization applied to construction sectors shall be 5 percent.

The Cabinet approved restructuring the Board of Directors of the Irrigation and Drainage Authority in Ahsa for a period of three years as of 27/02/1431 H. under the chairmanship of the Minister of Agriculture and the membership of the following:

1- Director General of Irrigation and Drainage Authority. 2- Representative of the Ministry of Water and Electricity Eng. Ahmed bin Abdulrahman Al-Bassam. 3- Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Hamdan from King Saud University. 4- Eng. Saleh bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Barrak from the private sector. 5- Eng. Mahdi bin Yassin Al-Ramadan from the private sector.

The Cabinet approved the addition of the sectors of Interior Ministry (Facility Security, High Authority for Industrial Security, Command and Control Center) to the membership of the Permanent National Committee of Radiological and Nuclear Emergency Response and the National Radiological and Nuclear Emergency Response Team.

The Cabinet approved a number of appointments at the fourteenth rank as follows:

1- Ahmad bin Abdulmohsen bin Ahmed Al-Madhi as Security Adviser at the Interior Ministry. 2- Jurayyd bin Metq bin Rashid Al-Anzi as Assistant Undersecretary of the Governorate at Tabuk Region Governorate. 3- Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Saad Al-Hagbani as Assistant Undersecretary of the Governorate for Security Affairs at Tabuk Region Governorate. 4- Eng. Fahad bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al-Ghanim as Director General of Projects and Maintenance at the General Presidency for Youth Welfare.

On the other hand, an official source at the Saudi Foreign Ministry denied reports on the kingdom's joining of Egypt in the Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

The source said statements by Prince Saud Alfaisal, the Foreign Minister, in both Riyadh and Cairo asserted that the reconciliation dossier is fully in the hand of the Egyptian brethren and hoped a speedy acceptance of the Egyptian initiative to restore Palestinian unity.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul-Gheit asserted on Tuesday evening that Egypt insists on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital, Egyptian media reported.

Abul-Gheit explained that his recent visit to Washington with Chief of Intelligence Omar Suleiman was undertaken to compel the US administration to exert pressure on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides to agree on Egypt's call for renewed peace talks, he said speaking in an interview with Egypt's Channel 2.

"Egypt has one of two solutions: Either two states living side by side, or one state for two peoples," Abul-Gheit explained, additionally warning of a third solution which he believes Israel to be planning - the displacement of the Palestinians into Jordan's borders.

The foreign minister further stated that the US administration dutifully paid heed to Egypt's proposal for peace, which he delivered to Washington.

"We talked to the Palestinians who explained their vision, and after that we took our responsibilities," Abul-Gheit said, responding to questions on other Arab states' involvement in the Egyptian peace proposal.

Addressing the issue of the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, Abul-Gheit said that opening its borders indefinitely would signal Egypt's recognition of the Hamas government, a violation of Egypt's agreements with the international community and Israel.

On Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would never cede control of occupied East Jerusalem, according to a bureau statement quoted by Israeli news reports.

The statement came after Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit said last week that Netanyahu would discuss making East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state, a position accepted by most of the international community.

Netanyahu "has not changed his declared stance, and insists in all his political talks that united Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any peace agreement and that Israel's defense borders will not be paved back to the 1967 lines," the Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted the statement as stating.

Israel captured Palestinian East Jerusalem in 1967, declaring it the "eternal, undivided capital of Israel." The international community has never agreed to Israel's claims, and thus maintain embassies in Tel Aviv.

Abul-Gheit said Tuesday that Cairo would not recognize Hamas' right to rule Gaza, because doing so would mean that Egypt was recognizing two separate Palestinian states. "This is a matter of security for Egypt and we have the right to defend our interests," he told Egyptian media.

He added that Egypt would always care for the Gaza and PA Arabs, and that Egypt "would never let the Palestinian people starve."

Abul-Gheit said that Israel's plans to build a security fence along its border with Egypt is of no concern to the Egyptian government as long as it remains on Israeli territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved plans on Sunday to erect the barrier along part of the border and install advanced surveillance equipment to keep out illegal migrants and militants.

"This issue does not concern us at all," Ahmed Abul-Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister said in a statement on Monday.

"Israel is building something on its own soil and there is no link between that security fence and our construction along the border with Gaza."

Egypt is constructing an underground barrier to stem Palestinian arms smuggling into Gaza and has played down the scope of the dig on the 14-km (8-mile)-long frontier.

Hossam Zaki, the ministry's spokesman said Israel had informed Egypt of its plan for the new fence within the past month. Security sources in North Sinai said late on Sunday that Israel had not informed the Egyptian authorities.

The Sinai border is a main transit route for usually unarmed African migrants and refugees seeking work or asylum in Israel. Egyptian police say the smugglers who ferry migrants to the border region sometimes fire on security forces.

Egyptian police have stepped up efforts to control the frontier following an increase in human trafficking. At least 17 migrants have been killed by Egyptian police since May.

Asked whether Egypt would be increasing the number of its own border guards to improve security, Zaki said: "No decision has been taken on it yet."

The border between Egypt and Israel stretches some 255 km (160 miles) beginning at the international border post 8 at the south of the Rafah border to post 91 at Taba, making it difficult for security patrols to fully secure.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad says Israel is mounting a fierce media campaign against the resistance before an intended military aggression on the Gaza Strip.

Islamic Jihad spokesman, Dawoud Shihab, in a statement on Monday called on the Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza to coordinate their positions to confront the threats should they be translated to the ground.

Shihab also criticized some Arab media outlets for repeatedly backing Israeli propaganda and portraying Gaza as a hotbed of terrorism. He commented that such reports cripple solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to resist the Israeli occupation.

He urged all media outlets, journalists and politicians to confront Israeli propaganda and focus on the active role of the Palestinian resistance in defending its land and people against the Israeli war machine.

Gazans are still struggling to resume ordinary life months after Operation Cast Lead which resulted in the death of over 1,500 Palestinians and the injury of about 5,450 people in the impoverished coastal sliver.

After USD 1.6 billion damage to Gaza's economy during the three weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment this past January, Palestinians in the Strip strive to survive under a siege that prevents any imports and exports. According to statistics, the unemployment rate stands at 44% in the war-wreaked enclave.

Meanwhile, a United Nations inquiry led by former South African Judge Richard Goldstone details Israeli actions "amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity," during Israel's winter offensive against Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The 575-page report by Goldstone and three other investigators asserts seven incidents in which Palestinian civilians were shot while leaving their homes, trying to run for safety or waving white flags. The report says Israel targeted a mosque at prayer time, killing 15 people, and shelled a Gaza City home where soldiers had forced Palestinian civilians to assemble. These attacks constituted war crimes, the report says.

The probe also found that Israel violated international humanitarian law in several ways. Dozens of Palestinian policemen were killed at the start of the Gaza onslaught when Israel bombed their stations. The security agents were not involved in hostilities and should have been treated as civilians.

Additionally, the Palestinians were forced to walk ahead of Israeli soldiers as they searched civilian neighborhoods.

International human rights groups have previously spelled out such flagrant offenses against the Palestinians in Gaza.