'Annapolis summit a success in itself'

Olmert to Kouchner: The conference cannot fail; French FM: Settlement construction illegal.

maaleh adumim constructi (photo credit: AP)
maaleh adumim constructi
(photo credit: AP)
"Annapolis cannot be a failure because the fact that it is taking place is a success unto itself," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday during his meeting in Jerusalem with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. During the meeting, the prime minister updated Kouchner on recent diplomatic developments, and assured the French foreign minister that both Israel and the Palestinians intended to launch a process at Annapolis which would lead to final settlement talks. "We are speaking of a negotiation process which hasn't existed in seven years, in the presence of dozens of states and in front of the whole world." Olmert said. "The goal of the summit in Annapolis is to create an umbrella of international support for a bilateral process between us and the Palestinians." Olmert also commented on the ongoing nuclear crisis with Iran, saying that "Under optimum conditions, the Iranians, from the point of view of technology, attainment, and completion, will have the necessary ingredients for building an atomic bomb by the end of 2009." Earlier, Kouchner told the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper that Israel's settlements were the biggest obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel should stop construction in the West Bank immediately, he said, so that negotiations could progress, allowing for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by next year. According to Kouchner, there is "no justification" for expanding settlements - neither "natural growth" nor security considerations. Kouchner made his remarks the same day The Jerusalem Post revealed that no new building permits have been approved for West Bank communities in the last five months . The French envoy was scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem later Sunday, before traveling to Ramallah to hold talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.