Arab foreign ministers have rejected Israel's demands that the Palestinians recognise it as a Jewish state, saying such a move would undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees.
In a resolution released at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo, the foreign ministers called the issue of Palestinian refugees an integral part of a comprehensive and just peace. It blamed Israel for the floundering of peace negotiations.
The Arab statement offers strong backing to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who said last week he would never recognise Israel as a Jewish state despite strong international pressure. Abbas did not identify the source of the pressure.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week the Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state to show they were serious about peace. It was the latest sign that despite seven months of mediation efforts by United States Secretary of State John Kerry, wide gaps remain between the two sides.
Abbas is due to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington next Monday, as part of US efforts to press both sides. He has said that the Palestine Liberation Organisation recognised the state of Israel in 1993 and that this was sufficient. Netanyahu has already met Obama.
The latest round of talks began in late July, but was plagued from the start by disagreement between Abbas and Netanyahu on the ground rules. The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967, and say talks should use the 1967 border as a starting point. That is backed by the US but rejected by Netanyahu.
The Arab resolution said it rejected "the demand by Israel and some international parties to identify Israel as a Jewish state, which aims to annul the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees".