(photo credit: AP [file])
A day after issuing a joint statement with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declaring an interest in the success of the upcoming US-sponsored international meeting, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia Tuesday and meet with the Saudi king, the person widely viewed as the key to ensuring the meeting's success.
Abbas is scheduled to brief Saudi leaders on his talks with Olmert during a meeting in Jidda on Tuesday, PA officials have told The Jerusalem Post.
They said Abbas's talks with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz will also focus on the upcoming conference and ways of formulating a joint Arab position ahead of it.
"The president [Abbas] wants Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to participate in the conference," said one official in Ramallah. "We don't want to be left alone at the conference. We want the Arabs to be there to support the Palestinians."
The Saudis and the Gulf States are being eagerly courted for the meeting by the US, in the hopes that their presence will give critical Arab support to the Israeli-Palestinian moves.
Another official said Abbas and Abdullah would also discuss the ongoing Hamas-Fatah crisis and ways of avoiding a further deterioration in the relations of the two parties.
"President Abbas will stress during the meeting his keenness on resuming dialogue with Hamas only after Hamas reverses the situation in the Gaza Strip and apologizes for its military coup," he said.
The head of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, on Monday proposed that he meet with Abbas in Saudi Arabia, Haniyeh's office said.
King Abdullah canceled a planned meeting with Abbas in Jordan several weeks ago in protest against the collapse of the Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah. The short-lived deal was reached earlier this year under the auspices of the Saudi royal family.
The Saudis are said to be angry with both Hamas and Fatah for failing to abide by the terms of the Mecca agreement, which called for the establishment of a Palestinian unity government and an end to internecine fighting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
While both PA and Israeli officials expressed satisfaction with the results of Monday's meeting, the Palestinians said the two sides agreed on the need to reach a deal at the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference, but Israeli officials said that while the meeting was important, "it was not the endgame."
"Everyone thinks that everything is going to done by November," an Israeli official said. "It is important - part of the ongoing process - but it is not instead of, and it is not an endgame in itself."
A senior aide to Abbas said the Palestinians were "satisfied" with Monday's meetings. But, he added, "We want to move forward more quickly. We are running out of time and there's a lot that needs to be discussed before the conference. We believe we can reach an agreement on a declaration of principles for a final settlement with Israel within weeks. The ball is in Israel's court and that's why we want to see concrete steps by Israel on the ground."