Abbas adviser: 'not a word' written of joint statement

Peres, Abbas sign industrial zone deal.

Peres abbas deal 224.88 (photo credit: GPO)
Peres abbas deal 224.88
(photo credit: GPO)
With two weeks left before the Annapolis peace conference, a top Palestinian official visiting Turkey warned Tuesday that the meeting might not take place due to the growing differences between the Palestinian and the Israeli negotiating teams. Also Tuesday, in a historic speech in Hebrew before the Turkish Parliament, President Shimon Peres said Annapolis was a "historic opportunity that cannot be allowed to turn into a historic failure." Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told The Jerusalem Post that not "a single word" had yet been written of the joint declaration Israel and the PA are expected to present at the conference in Annapolis, Maryland. "I am a realist," Abu Rudaineh told the Post shortly after Peres and Abbas addressed the Turkish parliament in Ankara, marking the first time that an Israeli leader has spoken before a Muslim nation's legislature. "Two weeks are left and nothing is ready. There are still too many differences." The US had yet to send an official invitation to either Israel or the PA, Abu Rudaineh said. Earlier Tuesday, a senior member of Abbas's delegation in Ankara harshly criticized Defense Minister Ehud Barak, saying he was proving to be more of an obstacle than a partner in negotiations ahead of Annapolis. Abu Rudaineh's remarks came a day after Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said his meeting with the Israeli negotiating team in Jerusalem on Monday was "difficult" and that disagreements over the content of the joint document had yet to be resolved. Peres, speaking at a briefing for reporters, dismissed Barak's call to open negotiations with Syria in place of the Palestinians. While Peres expressed hope that Syria would participate in the Annapolis summit, he said he thought President Bashar Assad was not yet ready to make peace with Israel. Earlier, Peres, Abbas and Turkish President Abdullah Gul signed an agreement paving the way for two new industrial zones in the West Bank designed to create approximately 5,000 jobs. The agreement was signed at a meeting of the Ankara Forum of Israeli, Palestinian and Turkish industrialists, which was established two years ago to create economic opportunities in the Palestinian territories. "If peace comes and the occupation comes to an end, Israel will live in a sea of peace," Abbas said during the forum's meeting. "We are working with our full force to ensure that the meeting in Annapolis is a success." In his address to the Turkish legislature, Abbas warned of "dangerous outcomes" if the Annapolis peace summit failed. "If we encounter problems on the way to Annapolis, then there will be even worse problems after [the summit]," he said. In a speech that reminded many of late-PA President Yasser Arafat, Abbas slammed Israelis policies that he said were obstacles to peace. "The wall in the West Bank, the construction of settlements, the hundreds of roadblocks and the 12,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails do not help," he said. Peres said the agreement on industrial zones did not come to replace the planned conference in Annapolis, but was being signed "in addition to it." He added that economic improvement was vital for achieving peace with the Palestinians. "This agreement is for Israel a win-win situation," Peres said. Speaking to hundreds of Turkish parliamentarians and government officials, Peres said he was in Ankara to exchange opinions and to promote the peace process with the Palestinians. "We came to listen... and to check the chances of making peace throughout the entire region, from Syria until Yemen," Peres said. "We [Israel and Turkey] are united in our rejection of terror... and together we want to create for our region a new horizon."•