Palestinian leaders threaten to boycott Washington summit
Palestinian authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will not attend Washington's regional peace summit in November unless Israel agrees to a reach an agreement with the Palestinians there, Abbas' associates told Haaretz yesterday, adding the summit could "prove dangerous". With U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expected to arrive in Jerusalem tomorrow, the Saudis also submitted some preconditions for their attendance.
The Palestinian sources were reacting to Olmert's statement that afternoon that Israel and the Palestinians will not present an Agreement of Principles on final status issues at the summit, but issue a joint declaration instead. "We are formulating a joint declaration to headline the regional meeting, should it take place," Olmert told ministers from his party, Kadima, in Jerusalem.
"If Olmert says there'll just be a declaration, it's not worth going to this meeting in Washington," said Nimr Hamad, an adviser to Abbas. In an unusual move, the chairman's office issued a press release reacting to Olmert's statement.
In the statement, Abbas' office did not refer to the possibility that Abbas would not attend. The statement did read, however, that the Palestinian Authority was seeking a structural agreement, and that a declaration of intentions would not suffice.
Call for timetable
The statement called for a timetable and mechanisms responsible for the implementation of stages of the permanent agreement, including collateral for implementation. The statement also said that all issues of the permanent agreement - including jurisdiction on holy places, permanent borders and the question of Palestinian refugees - must be addressed in the agreement.
"We can live without the summit, but if does take place and fail by producing nothing more than a joint statement, then it could prove to be a danger for the whole region in danger," one of Abbas' senior advisers told Haaretz. "We must not attend such a summit. We're not demanding the resolution of the entire problem by then, but we are demanding a significant breakthrough from the meeting."
In his daily briefing for reporters in Jeddah, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud al-Faisal echoed the Palestinian demands. "If this conference will not discuss serious topics aimed to resolve the conflict, put Arab initiative as a key objective, set an agenda that details issues as required and oblige Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, this conference will not have any objective and will turn into protracted negotiations."
Western diplomats who recently visited Saudi Arabia told Haaretz that in their conversations with Saudi officials, they received the impressions that Saudi Arabia will not attend the summit. The sources say the Saudis regard a declaration of intentions as insufficient justification for their attendance.
Commenting on the internal dispute within the Palestinian Authority between Fatah and its rival organization Hamas, al-Faisal said the Kingdom remains committed to the Mecca Agreement between the parties.
"The terms of the Mecca initiative are clear and agreed upon by the Palestinian parties," he said. "If there is a desire for reconciliation, they have to refer to the terms of Mecca Agreement and implement them. The Kingdom will not provide any alternative initiative to Mecca Agreement.
The Kingdom also hopes for a resolution to the crisis in Lebanon and is cautiously optimistic about developments, al-Faisal said.