Handshake not acquiescence to Israeli stance: Prince Turki
Arab News - 08 February, 2010
Prince Turki Al-Faisal, former Saudi ambassador to the United States and the
UK, who shook hands on Saturday with Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign
minister, called on Israel to withdraw from all occupied Arab territories
and to work in conjugation to restore peace and security in the Middle East.
Prince Turki was quoted by Agence France Presse as saying on Sunday that his
handshake at an international security conference in Munich should not be
seen as acquiescence to Israel's stance on Palestinian autonomy.
"My strong objections and condemnations of Tel Aviv's policies and actions
against the Palestinians remain unchanged," he said.
The prince underscored the Kingdom's stance that it would recognize Israel
as an equal partner in the region and work to normalize relations only if it
withdraws to pre-1967 borders and comes forward for peace negotiations.
The handshake between Prince Turki and Ayalon during a panel discussion at a
Munich security conference settled a public diplomatic spat about seating
arrangements. The conference took place over the weekend in the German city.
On Saturday, a panel convened on the topic of the Middle East peace process,
was to include Prince Turki and Ayalon, as well as the Turkish foreign
minister, US Sen. Joe Lieberman and senior Egyptian and Russian officials.
But the panel was split into two, according to reports, and in the
subsequent question-and-answer session, Prince Turki stood up in the
audience and said that it was not he who had objected to sitting with
Ayalon, but rather it was probably done due to Ayalon's "boorish behavior"
with Turkey's envoy to Israel recently. The prince was referring to a public
dressing down Ayalon gave to Turkish Ambassador Oguz Celikkol recently.
The Israeli deputy minister later conceded that his behavior toward the
envoy had been inappropriate for which an apology was offered.
After that, the Israeli politician got off the stage, came down to the
prince in the course of the panel discussions and shook hands.
"This event should not be taken out of context or misunderstood," said
Prince Turki, who said the gesture is a recognition of public etiquette and
"It is clear that Israel's Arab neighbors want peace, but they cannot be
expected to tolerate what amounts to theft committed on Arab lands," the
prince said after being questioned about the handshake.