Saudi says US vows one-year peace deadline at talks

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DUBAI, Nov 27 (Reuters) Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said ahead of his participation in a West Asia peace summit today that the United States had promised that negotiations would be concluded within a year.

Speaking to the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Prince Saud said the Muslim kingdom had decided to attend the meeting in Annapolis, Maryland because it would address core issues in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute as well as including the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.

''The important factor is the placement of a deadline for negotiations so they do not become endless and this is what the American government hosting the conference has promised, that the time period does not exceed one year,'' the newspaper quoted Prince Saud as saying.

''We felt from the United States and the international Quartet some encouraging assurances on following up the negotiations through specific mechanisms and reciprocal commitments among all the active parties.'' President George W Bush opens the high-stakes Israeli-Palestinian peace conference today, trying to achieve in his final 14 months in office a goal that has eluded US leaders for decades.

The Annapolis conference is the most ambitious round if international West Asia diplomacy in seven years and the talks are aimed at reviving a long-dormant peace process with negotiations for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

With lingering mistrust and sporadic violence on all sides, no one expects a swift breakthrough. But the participation of the Saudi Foreign Minister and the presence of Syria, a front-line state formally at war with Israel, is a boost to the summit hosts.

While Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and a Arab diplomatic heavyweight, has close ties to the United States, it has no diplomatic ties to the Jewish state.

It is the driving force behind an Arab peace initiative revived earlier this year, offering Israeli normal relations with all Arab states if it withdraws from all Arab territories seized in the 1967 war.

Annapolis ''is a crossroads in the history of the West Asia conflict, especially in addressing the roots of the conflict and its core issues,'' the paper quoted Prince Saud as saying.


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