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(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking after US President George Bush at the Annapolis peace summit, said Israel should end its occupation of all territories captured in the Six Day War, including east Jerusalem the Syrian Golan and certain parts of Lebanon.
Abbas commended the significant participation in the conference of countries from all over the world, including Arab countries and major industrial leaders, in what he called a unique conference in the history of conflict. This, he said, would provide impetus and encouragement for the negotiation process, ending occupation and bringing about the establishment of the state of Palestine side by side with the state of Israel.
"Our region stands at a crossroads that separate two historical phases," Abbas said, adding that such an opportunity might not be repeated. "Let us make peace of the brave, and protect it for the sake of our children and your children."
At the same time, the Palestinian leader gave no indication that his side was willing to concede on any of the flashpoint issues that have derailed previous peace efforts: the status of disputed Jerusalem, refugees, the borders of an independent Palestine and Israeli settlements.
"I have the right here to defend openly and with no hesitation the right of my people to see a new dawn, with no occupation, no settlement, no separation wall, no prisons with thousands of prisoners, no assassinations, no siege, and no roadblocks around villages and cities," Abbas said.
He called for a peace that "includes a halt to all settlement activities including natural growth, reopening the closed Jerusalem institutions, removing settlement outposts, roadblocks, and releasing prisoners, and facilitating our authority's tasks of imposing order and sovereignty of law."
Abbas also said that it was his "duty" to say that the fate of Jerusalem, which both sides want to claim as their capital, must be central to any deal. "We want east Jerusalem to be our capital, and to have open relations with west Jerusalem, and to allow all believers from all faiths to practice their rituals and to reach sacred places without unfairness and on the basis of what is guaranteed by international and human laws," he said.
Abbas also addressed Olmert and the Israeli public, saying "I wish to address the minds and consciences of every citizen of Israel. The most determining factor for creating peace and stability is the public opinion in Palestine and Israel. Despite our disagreements on critical issues, Prime Minister Olmert has shown willingness for peace. I hope that together we can continue to work closely in order to achieve this historical mission for which we have waited too long."
Watching Abbas speak on TV, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza rejected his call and said Abbas speaks only for himself.
The spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, watched the opening speeches at his office in Gaza City. He said Abbas "has no mandate to discuss, to agree, or to erase any word related to our rights." Barhoum said Abbas went to the conference "without any support from his people. He is isolated (and) represents himself only."
Barhoum expressed disappointment in the participation of Arab nations in the summit. Their presence is seen as support for renewed peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Instead, Barhoum indicated that Hamas would continue its violence against Israel. "We will use all the tools of resistance to achieve our rights," he said. Hamas has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel, killing hundreds.
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