PA sources: Agreement of principles by Aug '08

Al-Hayat quotes officials as saying; Jordanians to paper: Bush's "Zionist speech" threatens deal.

olmert abbas nice 224 88 (photo credit: GPO [file])
olmert abbas nice 224 88
(photo credit: GPO [file])
Although the discouraging pace of peace talks has led many to doubt the feasibility of US President George W. Bush's goal that a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians could be realized by 2009, Palestinian Authority officials seemed optimistic on Sunday, telling the London-based newspaper, Al-Hayat that an agreement of principles between the two sides would likely be signed by August 2008. The report, however, went on to quote Jordanian officials expressing concern over the president's visit to the Knesset on Thursday, saying that the tone of his "Zionist speech" demonstrated that the chance for peace might be missed. Further, Jordanian officials told the newspaper that three weeks ago, an argument erupted between the Jordanian foreign minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. According to the report, Livni sparked the confrontation when she attacked the Jordanian position on West Bank settlements, and demanded that her counterpart "stop damaging negotiations with the Palestinians." The officials were also quoted as saying that an unnamed Jordanian official and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat drafted an unofficial agreement of principles together, but were prevented from presenting it publicly after the Bush administration voiced its opposition. Meanwhile, Jordan's King Abdullah II told Livni to set the conditions necessary for peacemaking so that an agreement with the Palestinians can be reached this year. Abdullah's remarks came in a meeting Sunday with the foreign minister on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Red Sea resort of Sharm-e-Sheikh, his royal palace said. The king also held separate talks with Bush. Abdullah urged Bush to maintain a hands-on approach to peacemaking, while he told Livni that Israel must immediately halt settlement activity in the West Bank and end its crippling economic blockade against the Palestinians. He said a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal must be reached this year.