'Base peace talks on fixed timetables'

Abdullah to Bush: Israel must end settlement activity; Abbas: In deal, no refugee will be left in Lebanon.

Abbas side on 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas side on 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Jordan's King Abdullah II told US President George W. Bush on Wednesday that stalled negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis should be based on "clear grounds and fixed timetables." Bush, beginning two days of Mideast diplomacy at the White House, met with the king over breakfast. It was a quick session; the king arrived and left within an hour. Later, Abdullah greeted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also came to Washington to see Bush. They will meet on Thursday. The Palestinians and Israelis remain far apart on peace negotiations, and Abbas is seeking US help to move things forward, his spokesman said. "The gaps are still there," said Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina. "The Palestinian and Israeli positions are still far from each other. That requires American intervention." There was no immediate readout of the talks from the White House, but the Jordanian Embassy said Abdullah stressed the importance of US involvement and Washington's role in overcoming obstacles to progress, particularly in pressing Israel to make concessions. "King Abdullah said it is important that Israel refrains from measures that would jeopardize negotiations with the Palestinians and called for an end to all Israeli settlement activities, a lifting of the blockade and restrictions on the movement of Palestinians," the embassy said. En route to Washington, Abbas said that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are in constant contact with each other regarding reaching a peace agreement and that the two sides are dealing extensively with the issue of Palestinian refugees. "If a deal is signed between Israel and the PA, no Palestinian refugee will be left in Lebanon," Abbas told reporters on his plane. PA officials in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that Abbas would urge US President George W. Bush at their meeting on Thursday to step up his efforts to reach a framework agreement between the Palestinians and Israel before the end of the year. Abbas will tell Bush that the Palestinians prefer a framework agreement that would lay the foundations for a permanent peace deal to a non-binding declaration of principles between the Israel and the PA, according to the officials. Also Tuesday, before heading to the US, Abbas told reporters that "we seek a framework agreement that includes all the core issues and how these core issues will be resolved - and ending with the establishment of a Palestinian independent state." PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said that the PA president would demand a total settlement freeze and a removal of checkpoints so that both sides can reach the goal set at the Annapolis conference - a peace agreement by the end of 2008. Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report