Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has said his talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were "tense and difficult," but not a failure. Speaking in Amman on Tuesday after talks with King Abdullah II, Abbas said Israel may have "misunderstood" the agreement reached in Mecca between his Fatah faction and Hamas on February 8. "We told Israel that this agreement was made to protect the unity of the Palestinian people and its national interests," he told Jordan's official Petra news agency.
Abbas: Rice, Olmert meeting tense
"The agreement is an expression of support for Palestinian interests, but Israel may have misunderstood it," he added.
Abbas held two hours of talks in Jerusalem on Monday with Rice and Olmert. The summit ended with no new agreements, but Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to meet again. Rice said she expected to return to the region soon to revive the road map.
"The meeting was difficult and tense, but it was not a failure and it will be followed by other meetings," Abbas said.
He said he expected to meet Olmert in the future, but he stressed that no date had been fixed.
Ziyad Abu Amr, the man slated to be foreign minister in the new unity government, told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday he expected Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to recognize the new government.
"It would be embarrassing for the Saudis to have sponsored the accords and then not recognize the government," he said.
Ghazi Hamad, a government spokesman, concurred, saying "there is wide support from Arab and Muslim states, as well as European countries, for the new government."
He added that PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was conducting marathon meetings in order to complete the formation of the new government "hopefully" by next week.
The positions of interior minister and deputy prime minister remain problematic, and the factions are still working to resolve the matter, although it is unclear what solution will be found.
Speaking about kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, Abu Amr, an independent, said "there is a concerted effort to bring about the release of Schalit before the formation of the new government. President Abbas is telling the relevant people that the new government will have trouble taking off without his release, as part of a fair deal including the exchange of prisoners." Referring to the proposal of Likud MK Limor Livnat to require 80 MKs to vote for the release of a Palestinian prisoner with "blood on his hands," Abu Amr said "they should not waste time in the Knesset making such laws. Why make it difficult to reach a deal?"
He added that "Noam Schalit is more responsible than many Israeli politicians," particularly given the recent objection of the captured soldier's father to Livnat's proposal.
Abbas was on his way Tuesday to Germany, Britain and France, where he is expected to seek European support for the plan to form a new Palestinian government. Abbas believes the new Cabinet will take a moderate position and should ultimately lead to the lifting of the West's financial embargo on the Palestinian Authority. The sanctions have blocked the transfer of $1 billion in aid.
After Abbas talked with the king, the Jordanian palace issued a statement saying that Abdullah had pledged to "intensify Jordan's diplomatic efforts in the coming period to win international backing for ending the (economic) siege and to strengthen the position of the Palestinian negotiator in the peace process" - a reference to Abbas.
Abdullah said peace must be based on the road map plan, which envisions the creation of a Palestinian state, and the Arab peace initiative of 2002, which offers full recognition of Israel in return for its full withdrawal from Arab territory.
The palace said Abdullah phoned Olmert on Tuesday and urged him to "reactivate the peace process with the Palestinians and overcome all obstacles that hinder the resumption of negotiations."