Jerusalem – New difficulties have cropped up in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in preparation for the Annapolis conference. The Palestinians have made new, tough demands. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), in a press conference that he held after his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said that the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians had gotten into an unpleasant situation over the issue of the timetable. However, he denied that there was a crisis in the talks.
Mr. Abbas said he is asking the United States and Israel for a guarantee of a Palestinian state and a final peace agreement within six months. He enumerated the issues which he wants to see in the document which will be signed at the Annapolis conference, and repeated the Palestinian demand that the conference should deal with the core issues. “The document has to be a prologue which includes all the issues affecting the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.
He promised that Annapolis would not be the last conference. “We are certain that the important issues will be aired at the conference. What is most important is that a timetable be determined for the coming conferences.” He stressed that six months is the most desirable time frame from the Palestinian point of view. “We are making gigantic efforts to reach agreements with the Israelis. Our aim is a final solution, and we will not accept a plan in stages,” he added.
The chairman of the Palestinian negotiating team, Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala), was more outspoken and called for a halt to the negotiations with Israel, if the latter did not agree to sign a timetable for establishment of a Palestinian state.
At the press conference which he held in Ramallah, Mr. Abu Ala claimed that he had received messages from the Israeli prime minister, saying that such a timetable would not be presented at the Annapolis conference. “The Palestinians have started talks without a timetable, and they got nowhere, for example what happened at Oslo,” he said. Nevertheless, he defined Annapolis as a “rare opportunity” for the Palestinians.
Not to be outdone, Hamas has declared that they would convene an alternative conference in Damascus, due to take place next week, which will be attended by representatives of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
©The Bulletin 2007