Bush ‘optimistic’ about Annapolis

Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet US president as Hamas rejects summit decisions.

Hamas said Palestinians would not be bound by any decisions taken at the Annapolis conference [AFP]
Hamas said Palestinians would not be bound by any decisions taken at the Annapolis conference [AFP]
Sixteen Arab countries and the Arab League have agreed to attend Tuesday’s one-day meeting with Israel – the first such gathering in more than a decade.
Hamas reaction
However, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group which is not among those invited to the talks, said it will not be bound by any decisions made in the US.
And earlier on Monday, Israeli forces killed four Palestinians in Gaza in an air strike and a ground clash.

“The decisions taken at Annapolis are not binding on the Palestinian people, who have not authorised anyone, either Arab or Palestinian, to erase their rights,” Fawzi Barhum, Hamas spokesman, told the AFP news agency.

Hamas supporters are staging daily demonstrations against the Annapolis gathering and Abbas.
“The land of Palestine … is purely owned by the Palestinians,” Mahmoud al-Zahhar, a Hamas leader, said in a speech on Monday, referring to the territory that includes Israel.
“No person, group, government or generation has the right to give up one inch of it.”
Speaking at a meeting of 2,000 activists from local armed groups, al-Zahhar declared: “Anyone who stands in the face of resistance or fights it or co-operates with the (Israeli) occupation against it is a traitor.”

Final status talks

The meetings with Bush came as Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams suggested that progress had been made on a joint statement setting out the direction of future peace talks.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a Palestinian negotiator, said that a joint document agreed by both Israel and the Palestinians would be made public on Monday after weeks of behind-the-scenes discussions.


“This document, which we are due to conclude today with the blessing of the Americans will determine the terms of reference for  negotiations – such as the roadmap and international resolutions – and the modalities for negotiations after Annapolis,” he said.

Abed Rabbo that final-status negotiations on core issues such as the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital; the borders of a future Palestinian state; and the fate of Palestinian refugees would be formally launched in Washington in two days time.

“The negotiations on the final status will begin on Wednesday in the presence of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas,” he told the AFP news agency.
Mark Regev, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, also acknowledged that “important progress towards an agreement on a joint document” had been made.

But he denied Palestinian claims that the two sides had agreed on a final draft of the document outlining the contours of future negotiations.

The differing messages coming out of the negotiations are one of many reasons why many analysts do not share Bush’s optimism.

After Annapolis

Michael Tarazi, a former adviser to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, told Al Jazeera: “It would be a mistake to think that anything meaningful is going to come out of these talks.
“This is a conference where people are going to talk about beginning to talk.
“The real important thing is not what happens at Annapolis, but rather what happens the day after – is there really going to be momentum to address the really thorny issues?”

Washington pushed for a broad Arab presence at Annapolis and both Syria and Saudi Arabia finally decided to send delegates. It will be the first time that Saudi officials will have sat with Israelis to talk about peace in the Middle East.

But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president who was not invited to the conference, has criticised Saudi Arabia for its decision.

“I wish the name of Saudi Arabia was not among those attending the Annapolis conference,” he told King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in a telephone conversation late on Sunday, according to state news agency IRNA.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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