Abbas rallies opposition to realignment

PA Chairman backs US-backed road map; King Abdullah urges military restraint.

abbas 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
abbas 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he was rallying Arab nations to block an Israeli plan to redraw its borders unilaterally, and instead implement the US-backed road map that envisions a Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has proposed drawing a West Bank border if negotiations with the Palestinians fail. Arabs, including Palestinians, fear the plan would alienate Palestinian towns and increase hardship there - driving many to neighboring Arab states, including Jordan. "We are working now and consolidating our contacts with Arab countries to distance Olmert's plan from the table and solidify the road map as a basis for negotiations and dialogue," Abbas told reporters after meeting Jordan's King Abdullah II. The road map is a Mideast peace plan approved by the United States, UN, European Union and Russia - known as the Quartet. It calls for an end to Palestinian-Israeli violence and for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Abbas said he was trying to "stop the Israeli military escalation" and violence in the Palestinian Territories, and said he hoped a "mechanism could be soon be reached, setting the stage for Palestinian-Israeli understanding for establishing calm." Earlier, King Abdullah told Abbas in a meeting that he wanted Palestinians and Israelis to renounce violence and resume peacemaking. In a separate message to Palestinians, Abdullah called for an end to feuding between Abbas' Fatah faction and militants led by Hamas, which holds a majority in the Palestinian parliament. Abdullah told the Palestinian president he was concerned about "security and economic deterioration in the Palestinian territories and called on all sides ... to unify ranks and overcome the different challenges facing the Palestinian people," according to a statement from Jordan's royal palace. The king also briefed Abbas about his June 8 meeting in Amman with the Israeli prime minister, the statement said. Abbas is expected to meet with Olmert in the coming days. Abdullah stressed the importance of "ceasing military escalation, in order to have calm prevail between Palestinians and Israelis and to create a suitable climate for building confidence between both sides and ensure a swift return to the negotiating table," the statement said. Abdullah later arrived in the Egyptian Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik, where he opened talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's state Petra news agency reported. It said the Arab leaders would discuss ways to calm tensions in the Palestinian Territories and ensure that badly needed international aid reaches the Palestinian people. In his talks with Abbas, Abdullah said responsibility rested on the international community to "ensure the flow of international assistance to the Palestinian Territories to prevent a humanitarian crisis there." The United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union - sponsors of a stalled Mideast peace plan - agreed Saturday to channel aid to cash-starved Palestinians for health care, utilities and social services, while continuing a boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian government. The EU was considering an initial allocation of about $126 million and wants to have the funding mechanism in place by early July. The United States was not expected to contribute.