No US formula for Annapolis declaration

Rice and Olmert also agree that they would welcome Syrian participation in the Mideast conference.

rice livni snazzy (photo credit: AP)
rice livni snazzy
(photo credit: AP)
The US will not propose its own formula for a joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration for the Annapolis conference, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed during their meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, Israel Radio reported. The two also reportedly agreed that the US and Israel would welcome Syrian participation in the Mideast conference on condition that Damascus clearly understands that the parley would focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues and not Syrian matters. Meanwhile, during a conference in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinians had fulfilled 90% of what the first stage of road map demanded of them and called on Israel to fulfill its obligations. He added that the Palestinians wholly supported the road map and were opposed to the reservations Israel was currently expressing. Abbas went on to say that while the two sides had not reached any concrete agreements, the Palestinians would come to Annapolis with a document dealing with all the issues on the agenda. During another conference in the West Bank town, the PA president said that the Palestinians were in a race against time to prepare a document for the Annapolis parley. "The negotiations will be difficult but we are sure that we will reach satisfactory results if there is good will and hope," he added. Earlier Sunday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, acknowledged that there were "problems" trying to frame a blueprint for a peace deal with the Palestinians. "There is no tension in the meetings, there is a good atmosphere, in fact, but yes, there are problems," Livni said before entering a meeting with Rice. She did not elaborate, but her acknowledgment of problems was a departure from Israel's past practice, which has been to refuse to publicly discuss disputes with the Palestinians as they try to cobble together a joint platform. Israelis and Palestinians are at odds over how specific the blueprint should be with regard to contentious issues that have derailed peace talks in the past - namely, final borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, sovereignty over disputed Jerusalem, and a solution for Palestinians who became refugees after Israel's creation in 1948. Rice, on her third visit to the region in six weeks, was expected to press Olmert and Abbas to agree on the wording of the document. Livni also said ahead of the meeting that any future agreement with the Palestinians would be based on the US-sponsored road map peace plan. She added that Israel had no intention of endangering its security, and that any advancement in the road map plan depended on developments on the security front, an issue which has not yet been discussed. The first phase of the road map plan calls for Israel to freeze settlement activity in the West Bank and for the Palestinians to dismantle armed groups. The plan stalled almost immediately after it was launched by the US four years ago. On Saturday Rice dampened hopes of a breakthrough on her latest trip. "I absolutely don't expect there will be agreement on a document," she told reporters traveling with her on the plane from Turkey. "They are still working and, like with anything of this kind, they are going through some knotty discussions and I think those knotty discussions are going to continue for a while," Rice said. The conference is tentatively scheduled for the end of November or early December, but no invitations have been issued yet because of the discord between the two sides. Olmert, who will join Rice on Sunday for a working lunch, is under mounting pressure from his coalition not to discuss any division of Jerusalem at the conference. Abbas faces his own domestic constraints. Rice is also slated to meet Sunday with Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair ahead of a planned meeting with Abbas on Monday. Both Rice and Olmert are scheduled to speak Sunday night at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem. The Saban Center is a private group that promotes Middle East amity.