Palestinian FM: Olmert not ready for 'serious' peace talks

Ziad Abu Amr meets Austrian counterpart Ursula Plassnik to discuss EU concerns over Middle East future.

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April 4, 2007 15:11
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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not ready for "serious negotiations" with the Palestinians and other Arab leaders on efforts to forge peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian foreign minister said Wednesday. "I believe that Mr. Prime Minister Olmert is not ready to enter into real negotiations, serious negotiations with the Arabs, with the Palestinian side," Ziad Abu Amr told reporters after meeting with Austrian counterpart Ursula Plassnik. "And I also believe, I can say here, that this time we don't have an Israeli partner anymore," he said. Abu Amr described as "clear, strong and honest" a peace initiative relaunched by the Arab League last week, and he said Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was prepared to meet with Olmert at any time. The Arab proposal is based on a long-dormant 2002 Saudi plan offering peace with Israel in exchange for a full withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Mideast War. Olmert has hailed the plan as a "revolutionary change" but has also expressed reservations. On Sunday, Olmert called on Saudi Arabia to take the lead in holding a regional conference - the first time Israel has made such a request of the Saudis, who maintain a state of war with Israel but are pushing for a peace deal. The international community has been divided over how to deal with the new Palestinian unity government, a coalition between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas has stopped short of renouncing violence or giving explicit recognition to Israel. Abu Amr, an independent who said he could not speak for Hamas, called the new unity government "a strong government" and said he thought it would succeed in "normalizing" relations with the international community. "I also think this government will be successful in overcoming inner and outer conflicts," he said, speaking through a translator.


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