Rice is visiting the region and has already met several Israeli leaders, before meeting Abbas on Thursday.

 

The meeting between Rice and Abbas took place in West Bank a day after Israel declared Gaza 'hostile territory' - a measure that could result in disruption of fuel and electricity to the region.

 

'Substantive talks'

 

"We need a meeting that will advance the cause of the Palestinian state. That is the only reason to have a meeting," Rice said at a joint press conference with Abbas.

 

"The president of the United States has not intention of inviting the international community... for a meeting that is not substantive."

  

She said Washington would "work very aggressively, very urgently to lay the groundwork for a successful meeting... that advances the cause of the Palestinian state."

 

Abbas said the international conference must "give a push to serious negotiations with the aim of ending the Israeli occupation of our land and Arab lands that began in 1967, in conforming with  international law, the roadmap, the vision of [US President George] Bush, the Arab initiative and signed accords."

 

"We believe the time is right for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital, and for living side by side in peace and security with the state of Israel," Abbas said.

Abbas said he informed Rice of the composition of the Palestinian negotiating team. He didn't announce the names publicly, but his aides said it will be headed by Ahmed Qureia, a former Palestinian prime minister, who led interim peace talks with Israel in the 1990s.  

Abbas also said he would meet Bush next week on the sidelines of  the UN General Assembly meeting in New York "to continue our intensive discussions with the aim of reaching final settlement".