Abbas to Livni: Unity gov’t to recognize Israel
Palestinian president, Israeli foreign minister meet in New York, discuss abducted soldier Shalit, ways to revive Road Map for peace; Livni on Iranian president’s scheduled address before General Assembly: It is a disgrace that he is allowed to speak here
WASHINGTON - A Palestinian official said early Tuesday that President Mahmoud Abbas reassured Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that a national unity government he was negotiating with Hamas would recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Abbas and Livni, who met at the United Nations headquarters in New York for more than an hour and-a-half, discussed a range of issues, from abducted Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit to how to revive the road map for Middle East peace, said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
The two also discussed preparations for a long-delayed meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Their talks took place on the sidelines of the opening debate of the new General Assembly session.
Not just one but “A series of meetings” was anticipated between Abbas and Olmert, Erekat told reporters.
He said he hoped the Israeli soldier could soon be released as well as Palestinian prisoners held by Israel but that he did not want to talk about the status of efforts to free them for fear it could derail a deal.
Livni told reporters the “Important and constructive” talks touched on the situation in the Palestinian territories, how to promote peace, and the next steps.
“Firstly and the most important issue for Israel is the unconditional release of Gilad Shalit,” she said.
Livni said she and Abbas were at odds mainly on the issue of the Palestinian unity government’s recognition of Israel, with the Israeli foreign minister stressing that it was crucial that any Palestinian government of national unity renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept interim peace deals between Israel and the Palestinians.
Livni, who held a series of meetings with world leaders in a bid to maintain the economic and political isolation of the Hamas government, said processes within Palestinian society, such as anti-Hamas rallies, are forcing the organization to realize that ‘in order to gain legitimization it must abide by the terms.’
'Karnit was amazing'
Asked if a unity government would accept those conditions, Erekat said Abbas’ position was clear.
“When we say that an agreement was reached that any Palestinian government will honor commitments and obligations of the PLO and the Palestinian national authority, that is what President Abbas means,” he said.
Livni refused to disclose any information on talks for the release of the kidnapped IDF troops, but did say that kidnapped soldier Ehud Goldwasser’s wife, Karnit, took part in her meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
“Karnit was amazing,” Livni said. “She conveyed the message in such a gentle yet firm manner.”
As to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s scheduled address before the General Assembly, Livni said, “It is a disgrace that he is allowed to speak here. This man, with the statements he made regarding the destruction of Israel, should not be permitted to address the UN, a body that was established in the wake of World War Two.
On Monday Livni met with her Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who expressed optimism regarding the prospects of Gilad Shalit's release.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised Livni Monday that the United States will raise the issue of the Israeli kidnapped soldiers' release in every meeting held this week in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly.
Israel's Ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon and Ambassador to the UN Danny Gillerman both attended Livni's meeting with Rice, who was accompanied by Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and senior aid Philip Zelikow.
In the meeting Livni asked that the subject of the kidnapped soldiers be raised in each of the American secretary of state's meetings, and Rice reassured her she will promote the matter.
The two also discussed the option that the Arab League will put forth a proposal for a presidential declaration during the UN Security Council session on Thursday, in a bid to present an Egyptian-Jordanian initiative for a resolution to the regional conflict.
The meeting was Livni’s second with Abbas since Hamas came to power in March, sparking a freeze on most foreign aid to the Palestinians.
Abbas and Hamas have been in talks on a unity government in a bid to lift the sanctions, but Abbas aides said on Sunday the president froze talks after Hamas made clear it would not accept interim peace deals with Israel.
However, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said talks were only delayed while Abbas was in New York.
Reuters contributed to the report