Relations with Israel Depend on Peace Progress, Arabs Say

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In another threat to an already precarious peace, Arab foreign ministers warned Israel on Sunday they would freeze budding ties without more progress in Middle East peace talks.

Arab states have threatened in the past to slow normalization with Israe l, but the warning Sunday seemed to reflect growing frustration with the deadlock. Ministers at a two-day Arab League meeting repeatedly warned that a collapse in the peace process was imminent.

"There has been a unanimous demand to tie relations with Israel to progress on the peace process," Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa said outside the meeting. "Israel is wrecking the peace process and the basis on which it was established." In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would rather risk straining relations with the United States than concede too much to his Arab peace partners. "Although relations with the United States are a strategic asset of utmost importance, it is not the supreme asset of the state of Israel," Netanyahu told Israel Radio. "The supreme asset is our security. The supreme asset is things holy to us like Jerusalem," Netanyahu said. "If an administration of the United States comes and says, `Give all this up in exchange for relations with the United States,' I will not give them up. …