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Olmert with Abbas
Photo: Amos Ben Gershom
Abbas: Deal must include withdrawal to '67 borders
Palestinian president tells Washington Post full Israeli withdrawal from territories, safe passage between West Bank and Gaza Strip are fundamental conditions for peace agreement

An Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would have to include an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the Washington Post Saturday.

 

Asked how the Gaza Strip should be regarded following Hamas takeover, Abbas stated that, "Nobody recognizes Gaza. We have one authority, one cabinet, one government. Hamas is an illegal government."

 

In the interview, the president expressed his confidence in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saying he believed him to be "sincere and serious," and interested in reaching peace.

 

Abbas was also approving of Vice Premier Haim Ramon's initiative of ceding East Jerusalem to the Palestinians. "In principle, this is the right direction," he said. "The Palestinians should have their own part and the Israelis should have their own part. . . . I say and have always said that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory. We have to restore it."

 

In need of independence

Referring to the issue of the Palestinians' right of return, he said, "This is my right, but how I will use this right is up to me and to the refugees and to the agreement which will take place between us.

 

"We want to find a permanent solution. The Israelis want security, and we are in need of independence. How can we deal with these two pillars? There is a gap between the two sides. We want to bridge the gap during the negotiations."

 

Abbas said that despite his initial reservations, he was now supportive of the US' policy of isolating Gaza, adding that Hamas will likely attempt to sabotage any agreement reached between Israel and the PA.

 

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