saeb erekat 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinian Authority won't attend the US-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis unless an agreement is reached beforehand with Israel on all the final status issues, Saeb Erekat, a member of the PA negotiating team, said Tuesday.
"The Palestinian position is very clear," he said. "We won't go to the conference unless we reach an agreement with Israel on the final status issues and a clear timetable for the implementation of any agreement between the two parties."
Erekat said the PA has managed to persuade Arab and Islamic countries to endorse the Palestinian position and to set conditions for attending the planned conference.
"The Arabs are now united toward the conference," he said. "We have all endorsed the Arab peace plan [of 2002] as the basis for solving the Israeli-Arab conflict."
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently on a tour of Arab, Islamic and European countries, is carrying a message to the effect that failure at Annapolis would lead to another round of violence in the Middle East, PA officials told The Jerusalem Post.
The officials said Abbas was seeking the backing of the international community for his demand that an agreement be reached with Israel ahead of the conference.
"There's no point in going to the conference without an agreement," one official said. "President Abbas is convinced that failure will boost Hamas's popularity and undermine the moderate voices among the Palestinians."
According to Erekat, the Palestinians will boycott the conference unless a deal is reached with Israel on the issues of Jerusalem, water and borders. "Without a clear agreement on these issues, we won't go to the conference," he said.
Erekat accused Israel of using the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip as an excuse to avoid fulfilling its commitments toward the peace process. He said what happened in the Gaza Strip was an internal Palestinian affair that should be resolved between the concerned parties.
Erekat said the Palestinians were also demanding that the first section of the road map, which calls for an end to settlement construction in the West Bank and the removal of all outposts that were established in the past seven years, be implemented.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA leadership in Ramallah, called on the US to exert pressure on Israel to accept the Palestinian preconditions for attending the conference.
"The US must move from rhetoric to action," he said. "The time has come to put pressure on Israel to agree to a detailed document about the final status issues before the conference."
Abu Rudaineh also said the Palestinians would boycott the conference unless an agreement is reached with Israel on all the core issues.
"Israel is avoiding serious negotiations to strike a deal before the conference," he said. "Israel has launched a military and rhetorical offensive aimed at poisoning the atmosphere because they don't want to tackle the final status issues."
In Gaza City, representatives of various Palestinian factions said the conference was doomed to failure because of the PA leadership's "weakness" and Israel's "intransigence."
They also warned that the conference would deepen divisions among the Palestinians and urged the Arabs and Muslims to boycott it.
"The Palestinian Authority is too weak to sign a deal with Israel," said Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar. "The conference will fail and this will have serious consequences on the situation in the region."
Saleh Zeidan, a member of the political bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said the Israeli government was not ready to address fundamental issues such as the status of Jerusalem and the problem of the refugees.
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