Report: Abbas Reiterates Refusal to Recognize Israel as 'Jewish State'

PA president, on Mideast tour, also says that summit follow-up talks will take place in Moscow and Paris.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his refusal on Saturday to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Israel Radio reported.

"Historically, there are two states - Israel and Palestinian. Israel has Jews and other people, and this we are ready to recognize, but nothing else," the radio quoted Abbas as saying shortly after he landed in Saudi Arabia after brief stops in Egypt and Jordan.

The Palestinians recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, which Jerusalem demands, is meant to bolster Israel's position that rejects the return of Palestinian refugees to areas inside the Green Line - the border before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Earlier on Saturday, after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Abbas said that there will be meetings in Moscow and Paris to follow up on this week's Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland.

He also said that a special negotiating team, led by former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, will handle peace talks with Israelis. the negotiations are due to launch December 12.

"There was this myth that there were talks or a deal in the U.S.-brokered Mideast summit in Annapolis," Abbas said. "The purpose of Annapolis meeting was to launch talks without going into details."

There will be two stations after Annapolis: one in Paris and the second in Moscow where there will be another conference to review what the negotiations have achieved, he added, without elaborating.

Abbas did not say whether the Moscow meeting would focus on the Syrian-Israeli track, as has been widely speculated.

In addition to the negotiating team, Abbas said that a supreme committee of all Palestinian leadership will be formed to follow up negotiations. He didn't give further details on which factions will be represented in the panel.

Hamas and other allied militant groups have strongly opposed the resumption of peace talks with Israel, maintaining that Abbas lacks the political legitimacy to speak on behalf of all Palestinians. Hamas and Abbas-led Fatah have been locked in a bitter struggle since the former seized control over the Gaza Strip in June, leaving only the West Bank under Fatah control.

Abbas on Saturday told reporters that he is open to holding talks with Hamas.

"We have had talks with Hamas for the past four or five years, he said. We don't mind having talks because they are part of the Palestinian people and we will not give up this part of the people and we will not ignore them."

"We consider it [Hamas] an important movement," he continued. "When it ends its coup, we will be ready to talk."

Qureia, who traveled with Abbas on Saturday, told reporters in Saudi Arabia that negotiations with Israel will include the Gaza Strip, even though it is under Hamas rule.

In Jordan, Abbas said that he didn't receive any guarantees from the American administration regarding the upcoming negotiations with Israel.

"All I can say is that we felt seriousness from President [George W.] Bush and Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice and the whole American administration toward resolving the Palestinian problem," he said. "But we can't claim that we have any guarantees on the negotiations and their outcome."

"We're depending on the righteousness of our cause and on the international community, including the United States, which is sympathetic toward the Palestinian issue," added Abbas during a brief stopover at an Amman air base.

Qureia, speaking separately with reporters at the Amman air base, said the Palestinians were determined to achieve statehood by the end of next year.

Prisoner release moved to Monday

The release of 429 Palestinian prisoners inside Israel as a gesture to Abbas has been postponed from Sunday to Monday, following a Palestinian Authority request.

The Prison Service has been preparing for the release for several days, and the prisoners have been concentrated in the Ketziot Prison in the south. Most of them will be released at the Bitunya checkpoint in the West Bank, while the Gaza residents among them will be freed at the Erez crossing in the Gaza Strip.