ANKRA - "If peace comes and the occupation comes to an end, Israel will live in a sea of peace," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas promised the citizens of Israel in anticipation of the US-sponsored Mideast peace conference scheduled to take place in Annapolis, Maryland at the end of the month.
Abbas spoke at a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Tuesday.
Peres also sounded optimistic regarding the prospects for peace, stating his belief that peace with the Palestinians and al interested countries was a definite possibility, but warned that peacemaking is a slow, cautious process.
Peres, Gul and Abbas sign agreement (Photo: GPO)
The two leaders, along with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, signed an agreement providing for the establishment of joint industrial parks in the West Bank which will provide new jobs for 5,000 Palestinians.
Praising the deal, Peres said that only prosperity can bring peace. According to the Israeli President, all positive developments after World War II were brought about by economic, not political factors.
At his side, Abbas concurred, articulating his belief that politics and economics go hand in hand, and that the agreement could contribute to the success of Annapolis.
Peres is slated to make history later in the day as the first Israeli leader to address the parliament of a Muslim country.
On Monday he met with Gul, who expressed his hope that the Annapolis conference will constitute a turning point in the peace process.
Meanwhile, chief Palestinian chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia reported Tuesday "limited achievement'' in the talks with Israel ahead of the Annapolis peace conference, but said there were also `"obstacles and difficulties we have to work out before the coming conference.''
Qureia spoke in the West Bank town of Ramallah after meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who is in the region trying to narrow gaps ahead of the conference.
AP contributed to this report