The release of 441 Palestinians – Mahmoud Abbas president of the PA had sought 2 thousand – and a non committal discourse on freezing the building of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, the promise to go to Annapolis with the intent of furthering the peace process. That is all that Abbas succeeded in achieving yesterday in his last meeting with Israeli premier Ehud Olmert ahead of the US conference in Annapolis at the end of the month. The principal aim of negotiations has been totally excluded, arrival at a common document.
The question now under consideration has become the participation of Arab Nations and their level of involvement. With that in mind Olmert may meet with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to reassure him of Israel’s intent to go to the conference open to concessions. For their part Arab League Foreign ministers – Palestinians included – are set to meet in Cairo Friday to deliberate on a common stance regarding requests put forward, while each individual state will independently decide whether to participate.
Yesterday, sources from the US state Department referred that the United States will send invitations to some Nations, which should include Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. While the presence of the Egyptian Foreign Minister and a representative from Amman seem certain, it is not the case it appears for Damascus or Riyadh. Syria has made it known that it will attend the conference only if the issue of the Golan Heights is addressed – a strategic zone conquered by Israel in the 1967 war and later annexed – while Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said it will participate in the Annapolis summit only if crucial areas are on the agenda beginning with the creation of a Palestinian State. A question the Saudis need to address themselves is the absence of diplomatic relations with the Jewish State.
So far there is neither great hope or expectation. Underscoring this atmosphere is yesterdays’ declarations by the Palestinian Information Minister Riad El Malki, who announced that the PA intends asking Israel to re-open Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, according to first phase of the old Road Map.