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(photo credit: AP)
A visiting envoy for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas promised Monday to continue coordination with Syria as the Palestinians work to reach a peace agreement with Israel before the end of next year.
Former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei's comments came after a meeting with Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem to discuss the recent US-sponsored Middle East peace conference, which set the stage for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
"We announce that we will stay in full coordination with Syria and the Arabs" during future negotiations, Qurei said.
At the recent summit in Annapolis, Maryland, Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said they would aim to reach a peace deal in 2008. But Olmert told his cabinet Sunday that Israel did not regard the December 2008 peace deal target date as a deadline.
"The (Annapolis) joint statement said that by the end of 2008 the final status negotiations should end," Qurei told reporters after Monday's meeting. "If Olmert says other than that, then he is responsible for what he says."
The Palestinian envoy added that "we are committed to working seriously to reach an agreement before the end of 2008."
The two sides have agreed to hold their first formal negotiating session in the region on December 12.
During Qurei's visit Monday, he met with Nayef Hawatmeh, head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or DFLP, one of several radical Palestinian factions based in Syria that are opposed to peace with Israel.
A DFLP statement said the two officials stressed that the Annapolis follow-up conference tentatively scheduled for Moscow in the spring should focus on peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, as well as with the Palestinians.
Syria sent its Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Miqdad to the Annapolis conference after the agenda was revised to include discussion of the Golan Heights. Syria demands its return as part of any peace deal with the Jewish state.
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