Abbas Urges Arabs to Block Israel's Plan to Redraw Borders

Published June 18, 2006

| Associated Press

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday he was rallying Arab nations to block Israel's plan to unilaterally redraw its borders and instead support the U.S.-backed proposal envisioning a Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has proposed drawing a West Bank border if negotiations with the Palestinians fail. Arabs, including Palestinians, fear the plan would alienate Palestinian towns and increase hardship there — driving many to neighboring Arab states, including Jordan.

Olmert, however, assured King Abdullah II during a June 8 visit to Amman that he would seek a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians and meet soon with Abbas.

"We are working now and consolidating our contacts with Arab countries to distance Olmert's plan from the table and solidify the 'road map' as a basis for negotiations and dialogue," Abbas said after meeting Abdullah.

The so-called "road map" is a Mideast peace plan approved by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — known as the Quartet. It calls for an end to Palestinian-Israeli violence and for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Sunday his country "wants to move forward with the Palestinians on the 'road map.'"

"Israel has accepted the 'road map,' which is ultimately the international community's consensus document on how to move forward," he said.

But Regev added that the "problem today is that you have a Palestinian government that says 'no' to the 'road map,' 'no' to peace and 'no' to reconciliation."

He was referring to the government led by the Islamic militant group Hamas, which opposes the existence of Israel and has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union, which have cut off much-needed aid to the Palestinian government.

Regev also said Israel wanted to meet Abbas to discuss how to move forward.

"But it must be remembered that the Palestinian government is run by Hamas, which has said in no uncertain terms that it rejects the 'road map,'" he added.

Abbas said he was trying to "stop the Israeli military escalation" and violence in the Palestinian territories, and he hoped a "mechanism could be soon be reached, setting the stage for Palestinian-Israeli understanding for establishing calm."

Abdullah called for an end to feuding between Abbas' Fatah faction and militants led by Hamas, which holds a majority in the Palestinian parliament.

Abdullah told the Palestinian president he was concerned about "security and economic deterioration in the Palestinian territories and called on all sides ... to unify ranks and overcome the different challenges facing the Palestinian people," according to a statement from Jordan's royal palace.

The king stressed the importance of "ceasing military escalation, in order to have calm prevail between Palestinians and Israelis and to create a suitable climate for building confidence between both sides and ensure a swift return to the negotiating table," the statement said.

Abdullah later traveled to the Egyptian Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik, where he met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss Palestinian infighting and humanitarian aid.

In his talks with Abbas, Abdullah said responsibility rested on the international community to "ensure the flow of international assistance to the Palestinian Territories to prevent a humanitarian crisis there."

The United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union — sponsors of a stalled Mideast peace plan — agreed Saturday to channel aid to cash-starved Palestinians for health care, utilities and social services, while continuing a boycott of the Hamas-led government.

The EU was considering an initial allocation of about $126 million and wants to have the funding mechanism in place by early July.

The United States was not expected to contribute.

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