Top US official: Annapolis conference in late November
'We are on track for somewhere before the end of this month, I hope. I don't see any reason to deviate from that schedule, but you never say never in the Middle East,' Rice aide says, adding that participating countries will be represented at ministerial level
A senior American official said overnight Monday that the Annapolis peace conference would most likely be held in the last week of November, adding that apart from the main players, participating countries would be represented at the ministerial level.
"We are on track for somewhere before the end of this month, I hope. I don't see any reason to deviate from that schedule, but you never say never in the Middle East," said the official, a member of US Secretary of State's Condoleezza Rice's entourage during her recent visit to the region.
Rice said only that the meeting in Maryland would take place "before the end of the year."
During the conference Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are expected to issue a joint declaration that would pave the way for negotiations on the core issues, including Jerusalem and the refugees.
Deputy PM Haim Ramon hinted that these issues would in fact be raised during the parley. Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to resign if these matters are discussed during the summit.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan have warned in recent days that the region would plunge into chaos should the peace conference fail.
On Monday exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said the summit was meant to distract the region as Washington prepared for an attack against Iran.
"Strategically, it (the US) is setting the stage and covering up for the upcoming American war in the region," he told a press conference at a forum of Palestinian intellectuals in Damascus.