The objective of the new diplomatic process being launched this week at Annapolis must be to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement by the end of next year, Egypt's ambassador to the United States, Nabil Fahmy, said on Sunday.
"And I firmly think that if there are serious negotiations it shouldn't even take that long," he added.
But if this proves impossible, the ambassador told The Jerusalem Post, "frankly, questions will be asked about the commitment to a two-state solution." And that, he said, would be a "very dangerous ramification."
Fahmy, who has been ambassador here for some eight years and before that participated in numerous peace process committees and working groups, said that the wide participation in the Annapolis meeting was positive, but the true test would be in the establishment of a "sustainable and credible" post-Annapolis process to achieve a permanent accord by the end of next year - in the lifetime of the Bush Administration.
He said he expected that target date to be set explicitly at this week's talks. "What we are looking at is, 'When are we going to finish this?'" he said.
Fahmy added that "we all know what the parameters are" for a deal. "It's a case of who has to do what. It's all about political will or momentum. It's not reinventing the wheel."
Fahmy said he believed there was a real opportunity for progress, but that mutual confidence-building measures were sorely needed. "The Palestinians want a cessation of settlement activity and the opening of their offices in Jerusalem," he said. "The Israelis want better security."
He had no doubt, he said, that a revived process would face obstacles. "The test will be to pick oneself up and continue."
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