PA official: J'lem actions 'acts of war'

Erekat: Abbas, Olmert to meet in Paris; Abbas in Syria to promote ending Fatah-Hamas schism.

olmert abbas argue 224 (photo credit: GPO)
olmert abbas argue 224
(photo credit: GPO)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are expected to meet during an international conference in Paris next week, PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday. He said Abbas and Olmert were expected to discuss the status of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on the sidelines of a July 13 conference hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to boost cooperation between the European Union, Middle Eastern and North African countries. Erekat said Abbas and the PA delegation would then head to Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on ways of achieving a breakthrough in the peace talks. PA officials in Ramallah expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in the peace talks. They said Israel's actions on the ground sent the wrong message to Palestinians. Rafik Husseini, director of Abbas's bureau, said the PA president would continue to negotiate with Israel despite the lack of progress. "Israel is talking a lot about peace, but its actions on the ground are tantamount to acts of war," Husseini said. He added that Abbas did not want to suspend the talks so as not to give Israel an excuse to accuse him of foiling the process. "If he suspends the talks, they will do to him what they did to Yasser Arafat," he said. "They will accuse him of supporting terror." On Sunday, Abbas briefed Syrian President Bashar Assad on the latest developments surrounding the peace talks with Israel and efforts to end the Fatah-Hamas dispute. Abbas's visit to Damascus is mainly aimed at seeking Syria's backing for the PA president's last initiative to end the crisis in the Palestinian arena, a source close to Abbas said. The source denied that Abbas would meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during his stay in the Syrian capital. The source quoted Abbas as telling the Syrian president that he did not believe that a breakthrough could be achieved in the peace talks before the end of this year. "The Israelis are not serious about peace and they are just wasting our time," Abbas reportedly said. "The Americans are also not helping us because they don't want to put pressure on Israel to stop the settlement construction." Another PA official said that Abbas appealed to Assad to exert pressure on Hamas to accept the PA president's initiative for "national dialogue" among all Palestinian factions. The official said that Abbas had expressed concern that the ongoing schism in the Palestinian territories would give Israel an excuse not to make any territorial concessions to the Palestinians. Abbas is scheduled to hold talks with leaders of several Damascus-based radical Palestinian groups in an attempt to persuade them to support his efforts to end the Fatah-Hamas crisis. On the eve of Abbas's visit to Syria, Hamas accused him of "succumbing" to Israeli and American pressure not to patch up his differences with the Islamic movement. Hamas legislator and spokesman Salah Bardaweel said Abbas's refusal to meet with Mashaal during his two-day visit to Syria was a result of US "dictates." He claimed that Rice and the US administration had "vetoed" Abbas's initiative and were preventing him from achieving reconciliation with Hamas. Syria's readiness to act as a mediator between Hamas and Fatah is seen by some Palestinians as a severe blow to Egypt, which has long been trying to solve the crisis, to no avail. The Egyptians had originally planned to invite Hamas and Fatah representatives to Cairo for talks on solving the dispute. According to Palestinian sources in Ramallah, the Egyptians are upset with Abbas for seeking the assistance of Assad in solving the crisis with Hamas.