Abbas Asks U.S. to Pressure Israel

Ad Feedback - WASHINGTON - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will ask U.S. officials to pressure Israel to meet the end-of-the-year deadline for a binding agreement with the PA.

"President Abbas will tell Bush that this is the last chance to reach an agreement," senior PA officials told Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh before the PA delegation departed for Washington.

According to the officials, Abbas plans to say that Israel has done nothing to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in the five months since the Annapolis conference.

"If we fail to reach such an agreement before the end of Bush's term in office, the situation in the region will deteriorate," the PA officials warned.

"We seek a framework agreement that includes all the core issues and how these core issues will be resolved -- and ending with the establishment of a Palestinian independent state," Abbas told reporters on board the flight to Washington.

"If a deal is signed between Israel and the PA, no Palestinian refugee will be left in Lebanon," he said.

In the minds of Abbas and Palestinian officials, the destination of the refugees is Israel, not the "independent Palestinian state."

PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki told reporters on the flight that Abbas would demand a total settlement freeze and removal of checkpoints in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

"The gaps are still there," Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the PA president, told the press. "The Palestinian and Israeli positions are still far from each other. That requires American intervention," he said.

On Wednesday, in a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Abbas said time was running out to meet the deadline put forth at November's meeting in Annapolis.

Bush also met with Jordan's King Abdullah Wednesday, who pressed the President to meet the demands of the Palestinian Authority to push the negotiations through to a final status agreement. The two leaders also discussed plans for a peace summit during the President's upcoming visit to the region for Israel's 60th Anniversary celebration.

Bush plans to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Sinai coastal city of Sharm el-Sheik and visit King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia.

According to The Associated Press, the US administration wants to arrange a "peace summit" where Arab leaders would endorse an interim statement that would show some progress in the negotiations between Israel and the PA.

But prospects for such a summit are slim, as security concerns prevent Israel from meeting the PA's demands within the timeframe and the core issues -- the future of Jerusalem, borders of a future Palestinian state, water, Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, and the so-called right of return for Palestinian "refugees" and their descendants -- all have yet to be resolved.

Sources: The Associated Press, The Jerusalem Post, YNet news 

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