Russia to host post-Annapolis summit

Embassy official tells 'Post' US supports idea; Olmert: Many meetings planned for after summit.

bush annapolis 224 (photo credit: AP)
bush annapolis 224
(photo credit: AP)
Russia expects to host a follow-up summit to Tuesday's Annapolis conference, focusing on "comprehensive" Middle East peace efforts, a Russian Embassy official here told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. The official said he did not yet know the timing, but that the plan was for Moscow to play host to talks that would "cover all the tracks" relating to a conclusive Israel-Arab peace. He said the United States supported the idea. "I think it will happen," he said. Asked what he knew about such a planned summit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said earlier Monday that it was one of "20 [unconfirmed] ideas that you'll hear about," most of which, he joked, were invented by bored journalists. Olmert added that there were various post-Annapolis meetings planned, a central one of which was the December 17 international donors' gathering in Paris, at which the Palestinian Authority is supposed to produce a plan for improved security in the West Bank, and international partners are to discuss funding for various economic projects to bolster the Palestinians. Olmert praised Quartet envoy Tony Blair for his work in this area, calling him "a great guy, in the right place." He also said Israel would "do our best" to help make a success of the planned economic projects. The Russian official said Moscow had first proposed hosting comprehensive peace talks two years ago, but the idea was now being seriously followed. There had been speculation that Moscow might play host to follow-up talks focused mainly on the Israel-Syria track, given that Annapolis is to be principally concerned with Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Indeed, it had been suggested that Syria decided to come to Annapolis only with the explicit guarantee of a subsequent restart of substantive negotiations with Israel. Olmert has said Israel made no promises to the Syrians to encourage them to come to Annapolis, but that it is "right" that they are attending.