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Speaking in Paris on Monday 16 January 2017, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir expressed support for the efforts being made to advance the peace process in Syria. Mr Al-Jubeir met with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on the sidelines of the Middle East Peace Conference that took place in the French capital over the weekend. At the conference it was announced that the EU will host a conference on Syria and the region in Brussels in Spring 2017 focussing on the political process towards a transition. The aims of the conference are to take stock of the state of play of UN talks in Geneva; humanitarian work and support for resilience and stabilisation, to assess progress in implementing commitments made at last year’s conference in London and to identify possible gaps and how to address them, and possible support to post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation once a credible political transition is firmly underway.

Minister Al-Jubeir’s comments were also reflected in the UN Security Council meeting of 17 January, where the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi said the Kingdom would continue to participate in all international efforts towards achieving a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis. He expressed support for Council resolution 2336 (2016), which had called for a peaceful transition for Syria, as well as several General Assembly resolutions, including one which had called for the establishment of a mechanism to gather and document evidence and hold to account those responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity. He underlined that the oppression by the Syrian regime, with the support of the Russian Federation, Iran, Hezbollah and other community militias, must come to an end, and the people of Syria must be able to determine their own political future.

Russia, Iran and Turkey’s proposed talks in the Kazakh capital Astana next week aim to reach a cease-fire in Syria. Mr Al-Jubeir said that these talks were worth testing, but should not be construed as Riyadh abandoning moderate opposition groups fighting to topple President Bashar Assad. “The objective is to arrive at a cease-fire and move on to the political process. Let us test it. So far it has not succeeded,” he said. “If it does, then we go down the political path, but that does not mean we abandon the moderate opposition.”

At their session, chaired by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh on Monday afternoon, the Cabinet discussed the outcome of the International Conference for Peace in the Middle East. Minister of Foreign Affairs HE Adel Al-Jubeir represented the Kingdom at the conference in Paris, which concluded its activities yesterday with a joint statement. The cabinet reiterated that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s stance on the Palestinian issue is that there must be a two-state solution and that United Nations Security Council’s relevant resolutions are the only basis for resolving the conflict which was adopted by Arab Peace Initiative and has received the support of the international community.

Ministers from the Middle East Quartet (United States, European Union, Russia, United Nations), the permanent members of the Security Council as well as Saudi Arabia and other Arab and European partners met in Paris on June 3, 2016 to reaffirm their support for a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Participants reaffirmed that a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. They expressed alarm that actions on the ground, in particular continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity, are dangerously imperilling the prospects for this two-state solution.

The participants underscored that the status quo is not sustainable, and stressed the importance of both sides demonstrating, with policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution in order to rebuild trust and create the conditions for fully ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and resolving all permanent status issues through direct negotiations in line with UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Speaking after the discussions, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said “The Arab peace initiative has all the elements for a final settlement,” and ought not be watered down to suit Israel. “It is on the table and a solid basis for resolving this long-standing dispute. It provides Israel with a lot of incentives and it’s incumbent on the Israelis to accept that.”

Ministers discussed possible ways in which the international community could help advance the prospects for peace, including by providing meaningful incentives to the parties to make peace. The participants also highlighted the potential for regional peace and security as envisioned by the Arab Peace Initiative. The participants highlighted the key role of the Quartet and key regional stakeholders. They welcomed the interested countries’ offer to contribute to this effort. They also welcomed France’s offer to coordinate it, and the prospect of convening before the end of the year an international conference.

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A group photo with participants attending the conference meeting on the Middle East Peace Process. Photo: F. de La Mure/maedi