Thursday, September 13, 2007

King discusses peace with Abbas, Kouchner

AMMAN (Agencies) - Jordan and the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday reiterated calls for placing Mideast final status issues on the agenda of the upcoming US-proposed peace meeting, expected this fall. At a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, His Majesty King Abdullah renewed Amman’s support for the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to put final status issues on the negotiating table.

The King said he will continue his communications with the Arab and foreign countries to rally support to push the peace process forward.

His Majesty and Abbas said the international Mideast gathering, which US President George W. Bush called for in July, offers a good opportunity to find a just solution to the Palestinian issue.

Final status issues, especially the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, should top the meeting’s agenda as a prerequisite to its success.

During the meeting, Abbas briefed the King on his talks Tuesday with King Abdullah Ben Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah, where discussions covered the developments in the Palestinian territories and the peace process.

Saudi Arabia also voiced reservations over the meeting, saying it might not attend the gathering if final status issues were not discussed.

At a press conference Wednesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal indicated that his country might not attend the meeting if it is not going to address issues of real substance, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Washington has hoped for Saudi Arabia to attend the gathering, but Arab countries have been concerned the meeting will be symbolic without addressing the toughest issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict - such as the status of Jerusalem, borders and Palestinian refugees.

“The kingdom sees no benefit in any peace meeting or conference if it is not comprehensive and if it doesn’t tackle major issues,” Prince Saud told reporters.

“If the conference doesn’t provide these things, then the kingdom’s participation is doubtful.”

Asked if Saudi Arabia has requested Washington to provide it with an agenda and a participants’ list, Prince Saud said: “We asked about the agenda. We haven’t received a response yet.”

Abbas also briefed King Abdullah yesterday on the outcome of his most recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that took place in occupied Jerusalem on Monday, where the two sides stressed their commitment to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the meeting in Jerusalem, Abbas and Olmert also agreed on the release of a new group of Palestinian prisoners during the holy month of Ramadan. They also agreed to form a joint committee to draft the guidelines of an initial agreement to settle the conflict.

Abbas thanked the King over aid Jordan sent to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to provide the Palestinians with their needs of essential food items and help ease the difficult living conditions they are going through.

In statements to the press following the meeting, Abbas said his meeting with King Abdullah was part of the continued coordination between the two sides and with other Arab countries.

Also on Wednesday, King Abdullah stressed the important role of France and the EU in backing international efforts to restore security, stability and peace in the region.

He made the remarks during a meeting with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. The King called on the EU to provide all kinds of support to the Palestinians to help alleviate their suffering through easing the harsh economic conditions.

The King repeated his call that the international peace meeting address final status issues.

For his part, the French minister, who is currently on a tour to the region, reviewed his country’s efforts to activate the peace process.

Kouchner voiced appreciation for Jordan’s role in supporting efforts seeking to move forward the peace process and enhance stability in the region.

The King and the French top diplomat also discussed several bilateral issues, including the results of recent talks between the King and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Ilah Khatib also met with Kouchner and discussed bilateral ties and means to enhance them. Talks also covered the developments in the region and means to activate the peace process.

Kouchner, who was heading to Egypt after Jordan, is on his first major Middle East tour since he was appointed foreign minister earlier this year and has already visited Israel and the Palestinian territories.

At a press conference later yesterday, he said: “After three days in Palestine and Israel, we have noticed, despite the difficulties, that positive elements are emerging... and we will work with both sides for this to become a reality ahead of the conference due in November.”

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