Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Abbas receives Annapolis invite

Abbas receives Annapolis invite

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has received an invitation to attend US-sponsored peace talks in Annapolis, his officials have said.
The long-awaited invitation was delivered to Mr Abbas at his office in Ramallah in the West Bank, aides said.

The meeting begins with dinner on Monday in Washington before moving to Maryland the following day, they added.

US Consul in Jerusalem Jacob Walles confirmed the invitation was delivered

but did not confirm its details.

The Bush administration hopes the conference will relaunch negotiations to establish a Palestinian state, seven years after the last substantive peace talks ended in failure.

But negotiations on a joint Israeli-Palestinian document to serve as a blueprint for future talks have made little progress, casting a cloud over the summit.

Israel and the Palestinians are divided over the fate of the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967, and the Palestinian refugee problem which dates back to the establishment of Israel in 1948.

High level

Earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held a rare meeting to co-ordinate preparations for the Annapolis meeting.

Israel and the US have been pressing for high level Arab representation at the meeting.

Arab foreign ministers are meeting in Cairo on Friday to co-ordinate their positions, although each government is to decide separately whether to send a delegation.

Egyptian officials say they are convinced the US is now committed to launching a serious peace process and its foreign minister is expected to attend.

Analysts say other Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, believe Israel has not offered enough assurances about its seriousness to reach peace and to make the necessary sacrifices.

Syria has said it will only join the conference if the issue of the Golan Heights, also occupied by Israel in 1967, is on the agenda.


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