Arab leaders hold mini-summit

Egypt, Jordan and Palestinian leaders "optimistic" about Annapolis meeting outcome.

    King Abdullah and Mubarak held talks at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday [AFP]


    Awad said: "This is a commitment for a timetable that we hear for the first time."
     
    He said the three leaders agreed that "the conference gives a large space for optimism".
     
    Meanwhile, Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain's foreign minister, has said that his country is deploying diplomatic efforts to convince Syria to attend the Annapolis summit.
     
    "Spanish diplomacy is currently working so that Syria is present at Annapolis," he said on Thursday.
     
    Draft revealed
     
    The developments come as an Israeli newspaper says that a draft of the joint document that Israel and the Palestinians hope to present at the conference, shows wide gaps.
     
    Israel has avoided mention of issues that have derailed peace talks in the past, including final borders, Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, the Haaretz said on its website on Thursday.
     
    Dated November 17, and drafted at Jerusalem's King David Hotel, the document came complete with handwritten notes in English and Hebrew penned by negotiators in the margins.
     
    However, many hours of negotiations have followed since that draft was written, and revisions might have been made since that date.
     
    Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator identified in the report as one of its authors, denied its authenticity but acknowledged that recent negotiations "have run into serious difficulties".
     
    Israel would not comment on the report, though officials did not dispute its authenticity.

    Hamas dismissal
     
    Amid the flurry of diplomatic developments, Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of the dismissed Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, has again criticised the Annapolis conference.
     
    "This meeting will be stillborn and will not allow the  Palestinian people to win their rights or realise their political  aspirations," he said on Thursday.
     

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    "The Annapolis conference will only reinforce Israeli's clutch on the unrelenting legitimatization of occupation of the Arab Lands"



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    The previous day, Mahmoud al-Zahar, the former Palestinian foreign minister from Hamas, told Al Jazeera that nothing positive would come from the talks.
     
    He questioned the sincerity of the US, saying that after leaving aside the Middle East conflict for seven years, the Bush administration was now trying to "make an impression that something can be squeezed by such a meeting ... in the last moment".
     
    Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said that with the US involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and the so-called war on terror, there was a political dimension to the talking up of the Annapolis conference.
     
    "So-called processing peace in the Middle East has become almost necessary language, that the Bush administration uses constantly today, in order to show that there is another face for the Bush war in the Middle East," he said.
     
    "That is one involving diplomacy."
     
    Invitations sent
     
    The US has sent out 49 invites for the November 27 talks, including to Israel, Abbas, and other Arab leaders.
     
    Egypt and Jordan have said they will attend but it is unclear if Saudi Arabia will and Syria seems unlikely to send a senior representative, if any.
     
    "They [Syria] have told many foreign ministers ... that they will not go if the Golan Heights issue is not on the agenda of the conference," Ziad Haider, a Syrian journalist, told Al Jazeera.
     
    The Golan Heights is a Syrian territory occupied by Israel.
     
    The Arab League is to meet in Cairo on Friday to devise policy for the Annapolis summit.
     

    Abdullah, Mubarak and Abbas are expected to attend the

     Annapolis summit [AFP]


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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