Abbas upbeat on Annapolis


The Annapolis conference is a chance for Palestinians to achieve statehood, Mahmoud Abbas said.

The Palestinian Authority president, addressing his people Sunday on the third anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death, promised to make progress toward national independence at the U.S.-hosted peace conference with Israel expected at month’s end.

“We see this conference as an historic opportunity to open a new page in the history of the Middle East based on the establishment of our independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been similarly upbeat about the prospects of the event in Maryland, though he has resisted Palestinian calls to commit to a discussion of concrete diplomatic concessions.

Two right-wing parties in Olmert’s coalition government, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu, have pledged that dividing Jerusalem will not be on the agenda at Annapolis or thereafter.

Abbas’ ability to deliver statehood has also been in doubt given his rift with Hamas Islamists who seized control of the Gaza Strip in June.

In his Ramallah speech, Abbas lambasted Hamas as “forces of darkness,” a signal that he will not be seeking reconciliation anytime soon.

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