RAMALLAH - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's invitation to Washington reportedly angered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the London-based Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported.
Abbas anger allegedly stemmed from Clinton's failure to mention the statement released by the Quartet - the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia - when she announced the invitation to Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet in Washington on September 2.
According to the report, "informed sources" told Asharq al-Awsat that Abbas ordered his media spokesman Nabil Abu-Rudaynah to call Obama administration Mideast Envoy George Mitchell so he could express his anger over the omission.
Quoting the same sources, the paper said U.S. officials were "confused" by Abbas reaction and "afraid" that "the situation would get out of hand."
According to Asharq al-Awsat, U.S. officials called Abbas three times within an hour "in an attempt to alleviate his anger and explain the situation" so he would not back out of the September 2 meeting.
The article further stated that Abbas' preoccupation with Clinton's statement delayed the meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee, which had convened to formulate the PA's response to the invitation.
Abbas then instructed PA negotiator Saeb Erekat to ask the U.S. to expand the list of attendess, adding among others, the Quartet and Turkey and Brazil.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II plan to attend the meeting.
According to the report, the PA is interested in a similar forum to the Annapolis Conference hosted by former President George Bush in November 2007.
Meanwhile, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday that settlements would be on the agenda.
"The issue of settlements, the issue of the moratorium…has been a topic of discussion and will be a topic of discussion when the leaders meet with Secretary Clinton on September 2," Crowley told the press.
Israeli Regional Affairs Minister and Vice Premier Silvan Shalom told Quartet envoy Tony Blair Monday that preconditions would derail the talks.
"We are happy with the start of direct negotiations and Israel is prepared for and sees importance in direct talks," Shalom told reporters following his meeting with Blair.
"But understand that placing preconditions before the sides even sit down around the negotiating table will bring failure," he said.