PA: Little hope for PM-Abbas summit

Official: We call on [Abbas] not to succumb to Israeli and American dictates.

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April 14, 2007 21:16
2 minute read.
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Palestinians officials said over the weekend they do not expect any positive results from Sunday's meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas officials, meanwhile, said there would be more suicide attacks and kidnappings if a deal on releasing Palestinian security prisoners was not reached soon. They also criticized the planned meeting, saying it would not serve the interests of the Palestinians. "These talks are restricted to security-related matters," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip. "These meetings don't bring anything good to the Palestinians. We call on President Abbas not to succumb to Israeli and American dictates." On the eve of the summit, the Hamas-led cabinet approved a major security program designed to end the anarchy in PA-controlled areas. The plan, which is not the first of its kind, was presented to the cabinet by Interior Minister Hani Kawassmeh. PA officials, who in the past said the meetings between Olmert and Abbas were taking place only to appease US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said they saw no room for optimism. "We don't have an Israeli partner for peace," said PA Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti. "The Israeli government is not only weak, but it's bad because it has rejected all the initiatives made by the Palestinians." Barghouti said he found it "very strange" that Israel was refusing to discuss final-status matters in the meetings between Olmert and Abbas. "Until now they have refused to discuss the issues of refugees, settlements, borders and Jerusalem," he said. "These are very important issues for us." Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO Negotiations Department, said Abbas would raise a number of issues, including the release of Palestinian prisoners and the status of the Gaza Strip crossings. He said Abbas would also express his eagerness to work to achieve US President George W. Bush's two-state vision. Asked if the talks would also deal with kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit, Erekat said the case was being handled by the Egyptians, who were mediating between Israel and Schalit's captors. "We don't have enough information about this case," he said. "We don't even have a copy of the list of names of Palestinian prisoners [to be released] that the captors submitted to Israel." Erekat said Abbas would also demand the release of PA tax revenues withheld by Israel. "This money is not a grant and Israel is not one of the donors to the Palestinian Authority," he said. "This money belongs to the Palestinians and Israel must give it back. Israel is holding the money with the aim of extorting the Palestinian Authority." Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO executive committee who is close to Abbas, condemned Israel for refusing to discuss political issues in the meetings with Abbas. "The current Israeli government is fulfilling the plans of [former prime minister] Ariel Sharon," he said. "They are trying to win time so they can complete the construction of the separation wall in the West Bank and place the Palestinians in cantons. Israel does not want the Palestinians to even think that they could establish a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip." Abdel Hakim Awad, a senior Fatah official in the Strip, urged Abbas to raise with Olmert the case of the Palestinian gunmen deported to the Gaza Strip and Europe after barricading themselves inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002. "These young men must be allowed to return to their homes [in Bethlehem]," he said. "They have been away for about five years. They must be part of any deal to exchange Palestinian prisoners for Schalit."

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