Abbas: Peace Deal Unlikely this Year

Ad Feedback - RAMALLAH - Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term in office ends January 9, 2009, said a peace deal with Israel by the end of 2008 is highly unlikely.

In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, marking the 15th anniversary of the failed Oslo Accords, Abbas affirmed the U.S. government's desire to reach a deal before the end of the Bush administration.

According to Abbas, while the U.S. believes it can still happen, Israel has not met PA demands on six core issues.

"We presented our ideas and demands regarding the six issues, but have not received any answer from the Israeli side," Abbas said.

On the issue of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, which prior to the Olmert government was a moot point in negotiations, Abbas said every Muslim nation in the Middle East backed the 2002 Arab initiative.

"We understand that if all five million refugees return to their homes, the State of Israel will be destroyed," Abbas said, but the solution still must be based on the Arab peace initiative.

Abbas said he agreed with Jordan's King Adullah's assessment in the French paper L'Express that Israel lacks long-term vision and doesn't want to resolve the conflict.

He also said that Israel must release Palestinian prisoners if it wants to achieve peace.

"We have made it clear to Israel that any peace agreement would involve the release of all Palestinian prisoners," Abbas said, adding that the West Bank and Gaza, i.e., Fatah and Hamas, must be united or there will be no Palestinian state.

Source: Haaretz

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