10/03/2007, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Difficult prospective for today’s meeting between Abbas and Olmert

For the first time the two leaders will be accompanied by their negotiating teams who must elaborate the common declaration to bring to the US peace conference. But the Israelis and Palestinians have diverging, if not opposing points of view.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – There are great expectations ahead of today’s meeting in Jerusalem between the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The two leaders, who will hold talks in the Israeli premiers Jerusalem residence, will in fact be accompanied for the first time by their negotiating teams who have to elaborate the joint declaration due to be brought to the US Peace Conference due to be held in  Annapolis, Maryland.

 

Key questions are on the table: Palestinian state borders – and thus the fate of Israeli colonies – the status of Jerusalem and the situation of Palestinian refugees.

 

What is overshadowing the outcome of the talks is the fact that the two leaders have arrived at their fourth meeting in two months with very different intentions: Abbas is aiming for a document which sets out clear guidelines for a concrete solution to these problems; Olmert is pushing for a less binding document. “We have to go there – recently declared the Palestinian President, in reference to the conference – with a clear and specific document, after which it will be possible to begin detailed negotiations on the so-called final state”.  “I believe – he added – that going there with a vague declaration would be completely useless”.

 

Olmert instead seems set to refuse a “"declaration of principles" or "agreement of principles." Instead, he is proposing a general "declaration of interests" - a term that did not exist in previous negotiations. He is also demanding that the declaration include a reference to President George W. Bush's letter to prime minister Ariel Sharon on April 14, 2004, which stated that the border between Israel and the future Palestinian state correspond to the green line – that is the border prior to 1967 –but also take the presence of Israelis into account, which Israel interprets as referring to territorial exchanges.

 

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the United States which is the main promoter of the peace conference is willing to post date the summit in Annapolis, given the obvious difficulties, in order to give the two leaders more time to negotiate.  And the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is preparing another trip to the region.

 

 

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