Abbas to discuss Israel-Palestinian peace with Bush

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday he would consult U.S. President George W. Bush this week on ways to advance peace talks so that a deal with Israel can be reached by the end of the year.

Abbas to discuss Israel-Palestinian peace with Bush
Abbas, speaking during a visit to Tunisia from where he travels to Washington on Tuesday, said he does not want the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian talks, shrouded in secrecy, to end with a vague declaration of principles.

"I will focus in my talks with President Bush and American officials on the negotiations and on ending talks with an agreement this year," Abbas told reporters.

The Palestinian president said he wants a framework deal that would outline the way sensitive final status issues can be resolved to establish a Palestinian state.

Palestinian officials have said that peace talks on issues including the fate of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees and borders, have shown no real signs of progress since their launch late last year.

Bush, who is set to visit Israel in May said at the summit in Annapolis, Maryland last November that he wanted the sides to reach a deal before he leaves office early in 2009.

Abbas said he will meet Bush on Thursday and will also have two meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to review progress in the talks.

"I'm not saying we will end up with agreement but we will try to meet the target date of having a deal by the end of this year," he said.

Abbas warned against missing "the window of opportunity" for making peace this year and said that "if this year ends without an agreement, we will face very difficult times."

Suggestions from Bush 

Senior aides travelling with Abbas said he was hoping to hear Bush's suggestions on ways to save the peace process as they were concerned that the year-end target would lapse.

"President Abbas is not going to Washington to complain but to review the talks five months after Annapolis and to see how things can be moved forward," senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

The Palestinians also said that Washington has so far refrained from pressuring Israel to advance the process.

"We will tell the Americans we don't expect them to pressure Israel, but we want them to be fair," Abbas said.

Israeli negotiators headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiators led by Ahmed Qurie had been meeting regularly to discuss all the issues, he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said earlier this month it would be possible to reach "understandings" with the Palestinians this year that would lead to a future Palestinian state, but added, "I don't see any chance that we can implement an agreement in the coming period".

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said "President Bush believes that Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas are committed to getting an agreement this year."


Reuters
Last Mod: 21 Nisan 2008, 12:15
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