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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arab League Demands Israeli 'Commitments'

ALGIERS, Algeria -- The head of the Arab League told Israel on Tuesday not to expect nations of the region to normalize ties without giving anything in return, as Arab leaders opened a summit here.

Algeria's president also called on the United Nations to define clearly the meaning of terrorism, echoing a proposal made by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday.

"In this world, everyone is fighting its terrorism. Some are fighting Islam, others make it an excuse to invade countries," President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the summit host, said in a speech opening the two-day meeting.

Ahead of the summit, Arab League leaders had rejected a Jordanian proposal that they offer Israel diplomatic ties without Israel's first returning occupied lands -- which would have been a dramatic change in the Arabs' peace strategy.

League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Israel expected "the Arabs will make concessions and even normalize without anything real in return."

"This shouldn't be," he said. "It should be commitment for commitment. Then we can reach a balanced peace and close the issues of the conflict in order to establish relations in parallel with the withdrawal and the establishment of a Palestinian state."

Only 13 heads of state from league's 22 members attended. The other leaders stayed away either for health reasons or because of personal disputes with conflicts, sending lower-level officials in their place.

The summit is sidestepping tackling the glaring issues that have shaken the Arab world in recent months: increased pressure for democratic reform, new optimism in the peace process, huge demonstrations in Lebanon and the withdrawal of Syrian troops there.

Instead, the summit is expected to endorse a text reaffirming a Saudi peace initiative approved in 2002. That initiative said Arab states were prepared to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for its full withdrawal from occupied Arab territory, the creation of a Palestinian state and settlement of the Palestinian refugee issue.