Israel is attempting to ethnically cleanse east Jerusalem of its Arab residents by preventing them from constructing houses and separating them from the West Bank, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claimed Thursday in a speech at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Senegal. "Our people in east Jerusalem face a plan for ethnic cleansing [as a result of] a series of Israeli decisions such as heavier taxes, building restrictions and the closing of Palestinian institutions, in addition to the city's separation from the West Bank with the racist separation fence," he stated. Palestinians expect Israel to meet "commitments to put an end to its aggressions and settlements expansion," Abbas said. "Yet what is taking place on the ground today is totally in violation of that." Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev condemned the comments. "The peace process faces many obstacles and leaders mustn't amplify them with incendiary statements," Regev said. "Israel is committed to historic reconciliation with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority government is our partner to this process. We should work to build trust [between us]." In Washington, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that "we would not use that term to describe the situation. I think it's probably an example of some overheated political rhetoric." "This cuts to a lot of different issues with respect to borders and a lot of fundamental issues that exist between the Israelis and the Palestinians," McCormack said. "We would urge both sides, both the Israelis and the Palestinians, to keep their focus on the political process and also to adhere to their road map obligations." Abbas appealed at the summit of the world's largest Muslim group for support during a "difficult junction" in the Mideast peace process. "We are fully aware of the fact that we are going through a very difficult juncture of negotiations in which we need your full support," he said.