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Netanyahu stops short of endorsing Arab Peace Initiative

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday said he welcomed the general idea behind the Arab Peace Initiative originally proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, however it contains many problems.

In a press briefing, Netanyahu told diplomatic reporters that a regional agreement between Israel and the moderate Arab states was a good idea in itself, however some of the initiative's ideas were outdated such as its call for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.

"There are positive aspects and negative aspects to it," Netanyahu said.

"This initiative is 13 years old, and the situation in the Middle East has changed since it was first proposed. But the general idea — to try and reach understandings with leading Arab countries — is a good idea," he added.

The initiative proposes that all Arab and Islamic states establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel after the successful conclusion of a peace process with the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu pointed out that the international community is increasing the pressure on Israel to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.

He also noted that during his talks with European High Representative Federica Mogherini he stressed that the settlements do not constitute an obstacle to the negotiations.

According to Netanyahu any future agreement with the Palestinians would necessitate a long-term Israeli presence in the West Bank so as not to repeat the Gaza scenario.

Turning to the Palestinian motion to ban Israel's membership at FIFA, Netanyahu said: "The attempt to hurt Israel politically will destroy FIFA, because it will start with Israel and then go to one country, and then the next."

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