Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the leading contender to succeed Yasser Arafat, said yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's statement that he hopes to annex West...
JERUSALEM Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the leading contender to succeed Yasser Arafat, said yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s statement that he hopes to annex West Bank settlements and keep all of Jerusalem in a final peace deal could torpedo efforts to restart peace talks.
In a major policy speech Thursday, Sharon said his plan to withdraw from Gaza next year, coupled with Arafat’s Nov. 11 death, could turn 2005 into a “year of great opportunity.” He held out the prospect of an independent state for the Palestinians if they stop attacks. But he also reiterated his determination to hold onto some large West Bank settlements and all of Jerusalem in a final peace deal. The Palestinians want all the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem for a future state.
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In the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, Abbas called Sharon’s comments a “disaster.”
“If (Sharon) puts these conditions on the table and says that he wants to negotiate on this basis, then I think he’s closing all the doors to peace,” Abbas said.
He said Israel must honor the internationally backed “road map” peace plan, which called for the creation of a Palestinian state next year.
“If the Israelis are ready to sit with us to negotiate implementing the road map, without any conditions, then we are ready to sit with them, because what we want is to implement the road map,” Abbas said. “We will implement our part, and they should implement their part.”
Abbas’ comments came as Israeli troops raided the Khan Younis refugee camp in retaliation for recent Palestinian mortar attacks, killing eight Palestinians, including at least five gunmen.