Abbas en route to Annapolis: 'We will exert all efforts to achieve peace'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday headed to the upcoming US-hosted Middle East peace conference promising to "exert all efforts" to reach a deal with Israel, but acknowledged that negotiations on a joint statement ahead of the summit are in trouble. "The positions with the Israelis before Annapolis are still far apart, and the negotiations are still ongoing," Abbas said on the plane heading to the US. His quotes appeared Sunday in the Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam. Despite the differences, Abbas said he was committed to doing everything possible to hammer out a peace agreement in the coming year. Both Israel and the US have said they hope to reach a deal before President George W. Bush leaves office in January 2009. "We will exert all efforts to achieve peace within this period," Abbas said.