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Qatar PM: Arab states open to mutually agreed Palestinian-Israeli land swaps

The Arab League is open to the possibility of "mutually agreed" land swaps to help find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Qatar’s prime minister said on Monday.

The statement by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani came after meetings between Arab League representatives and Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington. Vice President Joe Biden also sat in on some of the discussions.

A major sticking point remains, however, in that the Qatari prime minister also said any new borders drawn should be based on the ones that existed in June 1967, before Israel’s Six-Day War claimed more land.

“The Arab League delegation affirmed the agreement should be based on the two-state solution on the basis of the fourth of June 1967 lines, with the [possibility] of comparable and mutually agreed minor swap of land," he said.

The borders have been a point of contention ever since, and Israel has repeatedly rejected the idea of giving up seized land.

But Monday’s language appeared more conciliatory with mentions of any land swaps being agreed upon and the prime minister’s call for “a joint justice and peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Kerry described the meetings as “very positive, very constructive discussions … with positive results.”

The foreign ministers of Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt were present, as were representatives of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority. Hamad serves as both prime minster and foreign minister of Qatar.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, speaking on Israel’s Army Radio, applauded Hamad’s comments, Reuters reported.

“The news is very positive,” the service quoted Livni as saying. “In the tumultuous world around … it could allow the Palestinians to enter the room and make the needed compromises, and it sends a message to the Israeli public that this is not just about us and the Palestinians.”

Kerry and the delegates also discussed Syria on Monday with United Nations peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

A State Department official said they discussed “assistance to the Syria opposition, including our support to the SMC [Supreme Military Council], and the ongoing efforts to help consolidate moderate elements of the opposition.”

Speaking on behalf of the Arab League, Hamad said, “I think all of us” support the Syrian opposition’s April 20 declaration in Istanbul, which said the rebels would work toward a a free and democratic Syria with “no room for sectarianism or discrimination on ethnic, religious, linguistic or any other grounds.”


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