Abbas 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday declared during a tour of Ramallah that in the future Palestinian state, "There will be no Israeli presence."
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He rejected the possibility of Israeli soldiers remaining stationed along the borders of the future state and also expressed opposition to the presence of settlers.
"We are prepared to move toward peace based on international resolutions, the Road Map and 1967 borders, but when a Palestinian state is established it will be empty of any Israeli presence," said Abbas.
Also on Friday, while on a visit to Bethlehem, Abbas said he hopes a Palestinian state will be established next year.
"We hope that next year will be a year of peace by establishing the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel in peace and security," he added.
Bethlehem celebrated its merriest Christmas in years, as tens of thousands of tourists thronged the West Bank town for the annual holiday festivities.
Officials said the turnout was shaping up to be the largest since 2000.
Unseasonably mild weather, a virtual halt in Israeli-Palestinian
violence and a burgeoning economic revival in the West Bank all added to
the holiday cheer.
By nightfall, a packed Manger Square was awash in red, blue, green and yellow Christmas lights.
Merrymakers blasted horns, bands sang traditional Christmas carols in
Arabic, boy scout marching bands performed and Palestinian policemen
deployed around the town to keep the peace.
A group of 30 tourists from Papua New Guinea, all wearing red Santa
hats, walked around the nearby Church of the Nativity, built on the site
where tradition holds Jesus was born. Both church officials and the
Palestinian president voiced hopes for peace.