Abbas: Settlements major obstacle

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said settlements remain the main obstacle to peace.

“Settlements and peace are two parallels that cannot go together,” Abbas told the Arab-American Institute’s annual dinner on Wednesday in Washington.

Abbas called for a freeze on settlement expansion, including natural growth. He added that he believed all sides, including Israel, were serious about their renewed commitment to the peace process.

The Palestinian leader said efforts by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to reconcile his Fatah party with Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, had failed because of Hamas’ refusal to recognize a two-state solution to the conflict.

Abbas’ Washington tour will include a meeting with President Bush.

At the Arab-American Institute event, Abbas announced that he and Bush would meet next month at a summit in Sharm el-Sheik in Egypt. It is unclear whether Israel will attend. Bush will be in the region to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

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