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Abbas: Negotiations are the only route to a Palestinian state

Aug. 17, 2009 4:04 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 18, 2009 3:21 P.M.)
Ramallah – Ma'an – President Mahmoud Abbas told his cabinet on Monday that negotiations are the only way to establish an independent Palestinian state.

"We are peace seekers," he was quoted as telling the Ramallah meeting. "The main and the only path is the path of peace and negotiations. We don't have any other path and we do not wish to use any other path."

The president insisted that if negotiations with Israel are to be resumed, they must pick up from the point they reached the previous Israeli Prime minister, Ehud Olmert. He also said that that negotiations must address all of the so-called final status issues, including Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, borders, security, prisoners and water.

He added that Palestinian prisoners must be released before a final agreement with Israel can be signed.

Earlier Prime Minister Salam Fayyad handed over to President Mahmoud Abbas the 13th Palestinian government’s agenda.

Titled, "Palestine: Ending Occupation - Establishing the State," the agenda included the basis for establishing Palestinian rule on the 1967 borders, and within the next two years.

The charter spells out government priorities in several fields, including assessments on the performance of each of the Palestinian Authority's ministries and institutions, with a focus on good governance and efficient management.

The political program also spells out future steps following the establishment of a Palestinian state and the end of the Israeli occupation.

For his part, President Abbas applauded his prime minister for recent improvements in security and development. "We are satisfied with your performance, which we respect, and we will continue to support this government.

The president also said Fatah's successful convention in Bethlehem ought to be repeated within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and pointed out that the Palestinian National Council would soon convene to rebuild the PLO's Executive Committee.

"We have seen some hard times, but the Fatah congress achieved more than I ever dreamed of. However, we are not here for Fatah only, but for the Palestinian people at large," Abbas said, adding that other PLO factions were equally concerned about Fatah.

Meanwhile, Abbas denied that the scheduled PNC meeting, scheduled for 26-27 August, would interfere with the ongoing national unity dialogue with Hamas, which was to end on 25 August, according to the latest deadline set by Cairo.

Additionally, Abbas said peace negotiations would continue the moment Israel announced a freeze in settlement activities.

"Our stance has not changed," he said. "We have six points on our agenda related to the final status, and we are ready to discuss these points with the current Israeli government at once, just as we did with its predecessor - if it chooses to freeze settlement activities."

"These are not new conditions," Abbas pointed out. "These are the terms of the first Mitchell Report, and were repeated in the Road Map," which called on Israel to immediately freeze settlements and Palestinians to end violence and incitement.

As for Hamas, the president admitted that "we are in conflict with Hamas. And I can't deny Hamas is present, as I believe in pluralism. If they are monopolists, that is their own business, although their own ideologies need a lot of change."

Abbas also took the opportunity to criticize security and order in Gaza, in light of Friday's deadly clashes with an Al-Qaeda-inspired radical group. He contrasted security there with security in the West Bank, and called Gaza's chaos the inevitable result of "the black coup."
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