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For statehood, Abbas to focus on Israelis

Jan. 3, 2011 11:50 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 4, 2011 9:04 P.M.)
TUNIS, Tunisia (Ma'an) -- During his flight from Senegal to Tunis, President Mahmoud Abbas told journalists he would spend the coming weeks holding meetings with representatives of Israeli civil society organizations in an effort to side-step the Israeli government in the search for a peace deal.

"I'm sure the majority of Israelis want peace," Abbas said, adding that it was unfortunate that the current coalition led by right-wing Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu had "thwarted US efforts to broker a peace agreement."

Wherever possible, Abbas said, he would meet with Jewish communities worldwide in an effort to stimulate the peace process, warning that both sides risked deep depression if the process froze.

Following a brief tour of South America, where Abbas continued to rally support for Palestinian statehood and lay the cornerstone to the Palestinian Embassy in Brazil after that nation formally recognized Palestine as a state within the 1967 borders, Abbas headed to Senegal and then Tunis after which he is expected to return to the West Bank.

During the tour, reports surfaced saying Chile and Uruguay had expressed their intent to recognize a Palestinian state as well. They would join Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador, who have all recently declared recognition. Uruguay and Paraguay have both pledged to recognize Palestine in 2011.

Abbas visited Tunis twice on his tour, once on the way out to South America and a second time on his way home.

During his time in the North African capital he met with member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization Farouq Qaddumi. The two, who had a public falling-out in 2009, appear to have reconciled.

One month ahead of the Sixth Fatah Conference, a landmark event for the party which had not held internal elections or policy meetings since the days of former party leader Yasser Arafat, Qaddumi accused Abbas of participating in what he said was an Israeli plot to assassinate the former president.

Qaddumi met Abbas at the Tunis airport on Monday.

Abbas was also received by Abdul-Aziz Diyaa, advisor to Tunisian president, deputy Palestinian chief of staff Muhammad Afana and the Palestinian ambassador to Tunisia Salman Al-Harfi.

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