In a discussion held Thursday at Tel Aviv University ahead of the peace conference in the US, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said that the Annapolis meeting will not be a festival but a first step which will pave the way for peace.
Participants in the discussion, an initiative of the Peres Center for Peace, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the University Institute for Diplomacy and Regional Cooperation, included Minister Ami Ayalon, former Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, and Hisham Abdul Razek, former Palestinian minister for prisoner
Malki said that the Annapolis conference was a historical opportunity for the Palestinians and Israelis to draw an outline for a real process which could lead to a resolution of the core issues: permanent borders, the settlements, Jerusalem, the refugees, security, and water.
According to the Palestinian minister, a peace deal that would end hostilities could ripen only after Israel and the Palestinians will reach a compromise on the six issues through a lengthy process. He said the meeting in Annapolis was but the beginning and that no one expected the process to be an easy one.
The Palestinian foreign minister criticized Israel's demand that the PA should uphold its commitments while the Israelis do not stand by theirs. He said that the PA has fulfilled the majority of the conditions while Israel continues to expand the settlements.
According to Malki, the key to the conference's success lies in strengthening the Palestinian economy which, in time, will build up the Palestinians' trust. The current disputes, he said, are related to the PA's demand to include the Arab peace Iiitiative alongside the Road Map in the introduction.
Concluding his speech, Malki emphasized the importance of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state as the single guarantee for Israel's security. He claimed that the Israeli position that security precedes a peace agreement is mistaken as the two are intertwined.