Monday, October 01, 2007

Abbas Calls for Final Status of State on US Summit Agenda

GAZA CITY, 1 October 2007 — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called yesterday for a clear agenda to be drawn up dealing with the final status of a future Palestinian state ahead of a US-sponsored Middle East peace conference. “We must have a clear and precise document so that we can begin detailed negotiations on final status questions,” Abbas told journalists after discussing the conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.
Abbas also hit back at Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who had warned him to be “realistic” about a timeframe for Middle East peace after he said a peace deal could be signed within six months of the conference.
“Being realistic means that we discuss final status matters — does being realistic mean we’re going to the conference with a general statement? I don’t think that would be useful,” Abbas said. The Palestinian leader and other Arab powers want the conference to cover the most contested issues of the Middle East conflict, including borders of the future Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and refugees.
Abbas’ talks with Mubarak came ahead of his meeting tomorrow with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during which “they will discuss a joint statement” to be issued at the conference, according to one of Olmert’s spokesmen. The negotiating teams set up during the last round of Abbas-Olmert talks on Sept. 10 will hold their first meeting in the coming days to work out the wording of the statement, Olmert’s spokesman said.
Tomorrow’s meeting will be the fourth in two months between the two leaders as they attempt to come up with some kind of an agreement before the Middle East conference, expected to take place in November in Annapolis, Maryland, according to Israeli media.
The two sides have been at odds over what they hope to accomplish leading up to the conference aimed at jump starting the dormant peace process. Israeli government spokesman David Baker said the Olmert-Abbas meeting would be held in the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
Olmert and Abbas have been meeting regularly since June as part of a US-led campaign to shore up the Fatah leader in the occupied West Bank and to isolate Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In another development, the Hamas movement ruling Gaza has arrested Fatah member Yahya Rabah, who served as Palestinian representative to Yemen, accusing him of corruption, witnesses and officials said yesterday.
Rabah, who is also a columnist at the Al-Hayat Al-Jadida daily, was arrested overnight at his home, witnesses said. “Yahya Rabah was summoned after numerous complaints from citizens concerning problems of money,” a spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry, Ihab Al-Ghassin, told AFP. A writer and well-known columnist, Rabah represented the Palestinians in Yemen for more than 20 years until 2004. He was one of the founders of the Voice of Palestine, the radio station of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in the 1970s. Since seizing control of Gaza in mid-June, Hamas has arrested many members of the Fatah party. Fatah says Hamas is conducting a political witch hunt, a charge the Islamists have denied, saying they are battling rampant corruption.
Meanwhile, under a deal struck with Egypt, dozens of Hamas members were allowed to return to the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing early yesterday after months of being stuck at the border, a Hamas spokesman said. Around 100 Palestinians crossed into Gaza from Egypt before dawn through the Rafah crossing, which has been closed since mid-June.
“Numerous people who came back belong to Hamas,” said spokesman Taher Al-Nunu. “There was an accord between the (Hamas) government of Ismail Haniyeh and the Egyptian side, which allowed these people to re-enter.” There was no immediate comment from Egypt.

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