Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Photo: AFP
Abbas: J'lem key to peace
Palestinian president says Israeli, Palestinian teams to meet Monday to discuss principles for peace talks in November conference; says Jerusalem as Palestinian capital is key to peace deal. Former Prime Minister Haniyeh of Hamas urges Arab states not to attend conference
The Israeli and Palestinian teams asked to draft a joint statement ahead of a Mideast peace conference will hold their first meeting Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.


The teams are to write down the principles that would guide future peace talks. The US-hosted conference is to take place in November or early December.


Abbas said he expected at least 36 states to attend, including 12 Arab states, three Muslim nations, the permanent members of the UN Security Council and the G-8.


"We hope that the number will increase to 40 states," Abbas was quoted as telling Palestinian dignitaries from Jerusalem on Friday evening, during a meal breaking the dawn-to-dusk fast of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.


The remarks were carried by the Palestinian news agency WAFA and confirmed by a participant. Abbas did not provide a list of countries expected to attend. The US has not released such a list, or set a date yet.


In Friday's meeting, Abbas told his guests that a solution for Jerusalem would be key to any peace deal. Israelis and Palestinians both claim the city as a capital.


"Jerusalem has always been in our hearts, and the hope that we have been looking at," Abbas was quoted as saying. "There is no independent Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital. It is a concern in the coming, difficult days."


Abbas has met six times since the spring with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to explore the chances of resuming negotiations, which broke down in January 2001.


Haniyeh urges Arabs not to attend conference

In the meantime, head of the Hamas government in Gaza Ismail Hanyeh urged Arab nations not to attend the conference, saying in an interview published Saturday that he didn't expect the gathering to produce any results.


"We are going to appeal directly to the Arab brothers, especially the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and will ask them to reconsider any decision to participate in this conference," Haniyeh said.


"The Palestinians did not build much hope on the previous Oslo agreements," Haniyeh told the pro Hamas newspaper "Palestine," referring to the interim peace deals with Israel, reached in the mid-1990s.


"Therefore, we are not going to build any hopes on the results of this conference," he said.


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