Abbas presses Israel on core issues

Warns of violent outbreak if sources of conflict not resolved; Olmert says he'll make "great effort."

qurei 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
qurei 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Abbas warned Tuesday that unless all the issues at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are solved, violence will break out anew in two or three years. Israel Radio reported that Abbas also said that a planned US-sponsored Middle East parley in Annapolis, Maryland, has been scheduled for November 15, but that the date was not yet final. Israel Radio later quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying that he would make a "great effort" to ensure that the conference becomes a first step towards peace. Olmert said it was imperative to avoid making excuses and to venture forward in negotiations despite the risks involved. Meanwhile, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei, said Tuesday there would be no talks with Israel unless a deadline was set for establishing a Palestinian state. Palestinian officials have repeatedly said they want a detailed time line for talks that are expected to begin in earnest after the Annapolis parley. The comment by Ahmed Qurei was the first indication that Palestinians could scuttle negotiations altogether if that demand isn't met. "The Israeli prime minister has stated that he will not accept a timetable, and we say we will not accept negotiations without a timetable," Qurei said at a news conference with the EU's external affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. On Sunday, the Kuwaiti newspaper Mishka al-Ray quoted Abbas as saying, "Olmert is serious about reaching a deal but there are many disagreements over final status." Head of the Fatah faction in the Palestinian parliament, Azam el-Ahmad, was less optimistic about the prospects of reaching an agreement with Israel, saying that negotiations had reached a dead end. "There has not been an agreement on any issue," said Ahmad, defining the outcome of the recent talks as a "big round zero." He added that if the situation did not improve, the Annapolis conference would not take place, Israel Radio reported. Also on Tuesday, Abbas said the US-hosted conference should not be a venue for Arabs to normalize ties with Israel, but said the conference should set a clear timetable for Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. "It is certain now that those who will attend the conference are the (Mideast) Quartet, the permanent Security Council members, the Arab follow-up committee which includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, Syria, Palestine, Qatar, Lebanon, Morocco, Yemen and the Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa," Abbas said. Abbas spoke in Cairo after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Egypt's state-owned Middle East News Agency also quoted Abbas as saying that three non-Mideast Islamic countries are also expected to attend the conference. Neither Mubarak nor his spokesmen would confirm Abbas' statement.