Abbas outlines Israeli 'obstacles to peace'

Obama tells PA president he will work seriously to boost the peace process in the Middle East if elected.

obama abbas 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
obama abbas 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday that if he wins November's election, he will work seriously to boost the peace process in the Middle East. Obama, who met with Abbas and other PA officials in Ramallah, also said that he would like to see concrete steps on the ground by both Israel and the Palestinians to give Palestinians hope regarding peace, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, Abbas's spokesman, said after the meeting. At the meeting, Abbas reiterated his commitment to the peace process and the continuation of the negotiations with Israel, Abu Rudaineh said. "President Abbas emphasized the need to stop settlement construction and end IDF raids so that the peace process would succeed," he added. "President Abbas briefed Obama on the latest developments in the Palestinian arena and the status of the peace negotiations with Israel." Obama came to the region solely to learn about the problems and to listen to the views of the parties, the PA spokesman said. PA negotiator Saeb Erekat described the Obama-Abbas meeting as "very significant." Abbas briefed Obama on the latest developments surrounding the peace process and outlined "mechanisms" for implementing the road map for peace in the Middle East, Erekat said. Abbas made it clear during the meeting that the settlements and IDF raids in the West Bank were the "main obstacles" to peace, Erekat said. Abbas also demanded that the next US administration pressure Israel to release Palestinian prisoners. Abbas, he added, reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution and to all the agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel. Erekat expressed hope that a peace agreement with Israel would be achieved in 2008. Referring to the recent upsurge in IDF operations in the West Bank, particularly against Hamas figures and institutions, Erekat said these measures were designed to sabotage the PA's efforts to impose law and order. "The Israelis are invading our cities, thus harming the dignity of our policemen," he said. "These measures are a blow to our efforts to train the Palestinian security forces and deploy them in the West Bank." Azzam al-Ahmed, a top Fatah official and adviser to Abbas, accused Israel of "ignoring" the Oslo Accords by continuing to carry out military operations in areas under PA sovereignty. "The Israelis are ignoring the fact that the city of Nablus is classified as Area A [exclusive PA control] under the terms of the Oslo Accords," he said. "Israel's actions on the ground are destroying the peace process." Ahmed ruled out the possibility that an agreement would be reached before the end of the year. "[US President George W.] Bush's vision of two states living alongside each other will apparently vanish when he leaves the White House," he said. "A new vision might come with the next US president."