Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
on Wednesday welcomed Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's
call to hold final status talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, saying the PA was prepared to return to the negotiating table immediately.
"The Israeli government used to talk about unilateral solutions, and this was unacceptable," Abbas told reporters in Ramallah
. "The only solution is to sit at the table and talk about all the stalled issues."
, Abbas added: "We are your partners in the peace process. We are prepared to sit at the negotiating table after your elections, as your prime minister stated. We want to talk about all the issues, but we won't accept unilateral solutions."
Abbas said the Oslo Accords were still alive "despite attempts by the Likud Party
to foil them." Israel's policies, he stressed, will only strengthen his determination to pursue his quest for peace.
Abbas denied that he was in a state of depression, saying he was only exhausted because of the preparations for next week's parliamentary election. "There's a difference between depression and exhaustion," he explained. He also denied that he was refusing to see anyone. "I'm receiving all officials and my door remains open," he said. "These reports are untrue."
Asked whether he feared violence on voting day, Abbas expressed hope that the electoral violence would be void of violent incidents. "Although the Palestinian Authority is weak and lacking in resources, we are making a superb effort to ensure the success of the vote," he said, dismissing threats by disgruntled Fatah
gunmen to disrupt the elections.
The PA, he pointed out, can't resolve the problems of the gunmen overnight. "We have tried to recruit the gunmen to the security forces, but our efforts failed for internal and external reasons," he revealed.
Abbas reiterated his pledge to dismantle armed militias after the Palestinian election. He complained, however, that Israel was obstructing the PA's plans to enforce law and order.
Asked if Hamas
would be required to abide by any conditions before it joins the PA cabinet, Abbas said he would not set any conditions for participation in the new cabinet. "Hamas is part of the Palestinian people," he said.
"When some opposed the participation of Hamas in the elections, I told them that this was undemocratic. If Hamas wants to change the Oslo Accords and other international agreements, it will need the support of two-thirds of the members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Palestine National Council [the PLO's parliament-in-exile]."
Abbas predicted that he would be in a difficult situation if Hamas wins a majority of votes. "I'm working to implement my political program," he said. "If I fail, I will step down."
Meanwhile, Hamas and Fatah announced on Wednesday that they had reached an agreement to ban the display of weapons on voting day. The announcement was made during a joint press conference in Gaza City
attended by Fatah's Samir Mashharawi and Said Siam
, a top Hamas leader. The two groups warned that any attempt to disrupt the vote would be fiercely resisted and considered an act against the interests of the Palestinians.