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PM, Abbas negotiate core issues on founding Palestinian state
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 2109 days ago | Friday, 17th August , 2007 , 06:16 [am] | International
|.||They said Abbas and Olmert have in recent weeks been negotiating a new document on the core issues of forming a Palestinian state. The one-page document has five general clauses on central issues such as the permanent borders of the future Palestinian state, the question of jurisdiction over holy sites in Jerusalem, and the Palestinian refugee problem.|
Talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on a future Palestinian state are stuck on the issue of the Palestinian refugee problem, government sources in Jerusalem told Haaretz this week. Abbas is refusing to make significant concessions, the sources said.
They said Abbas and Olmert have in recent weeks been negotiating a new document on the core issues of forming a Palestinian state. The one-page document has five general clauses on central issues such as the permanent borders of the future Palestinian state, the question of jurisdiction over holy sites in Jerusalem, and the Palestinian refugee problem.
Olmert and Abbas have reached several understandings, but have yet to agree on actual resolutions, the sources said, adding that the two leaders will meet at the end of the month to discuss the issues.
Both Israeli and Palestinian parties involved in the negotiations said the document was meant to be completed for the international peace conference U.S. President George W. Bush plans to hold in the fall.
Foreign diplomats said Abbas’ aides told them that the international conference could not take place before the document is completed. Sources at Olmert’s office, however, suggested a different approach. “We’re hoping to complete the document of principles before the conference, but the meeting does not depend on the document’s completion,” one said.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to arrive in Israel early next month to try to bridge the gap between the Palestinian and Israeli positions. Rice is reportedly determined to deal with core issues on her next visit, as opposed to tactical problems such as Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank or security concessions aimed at improving living conditions for the Palestinians.
If the document is completed in time it will form the basis for further discussions at the conference, government sources said. An extended Palestinian negotiation team will meet with an Israeli team to discuss each clause at greater length. Sources involved with the negotiations said the Palestinian side had already assembled a team to handle the talks.
Israeli diplomats have yet to set up such a delegation, but Jerusalem is currently forming a negotiating strategy for future talks with the Palestinians. The strategists are also enlisting international support and assistance for the talks.
The strategy is based on three areas:
1. Bilateral talks with the Palestinians. The guidelines for negotiations with the Palestinians are restricted to local issues. The immediate goal will be to weaken Hamas, the Fatah rivals who seized control of the Gaza Strip last June. This would be achieved through a boycott on Hamas amid attempts to bolster Abbas’ West Bank government.
2. Regional Arab issues. In its dealings with moderate Arab states, Israel is no longer demanding full recognition. Instead, Israel will seek a gradual rapprochement with the Arab League. Israel aims to secure the Arab League’s support and assistance for the international conference. Sources in Jerusalem said, however, that Arab diplomats are skeptical about the conference and fear that it has little chance of breaking the impasse in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
3. Issues concerning the international community and the international Quartet of Mideast mediators. Israel, according to government sources, is seeking additional financial support for Abbas’ regime from the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
As Israeli diplomatic experts tackle these challenges, government sources believe the plans are hard to implement “even after we reach the document of understating with the Palestinians,” one said. For this reason, a source in Jerusalem said that “the negotiations should aspire to pertain to as broad a diplomatic context as possible.”haaretz, Voice of a Nation