Diplomats to push Israel, PA declaration
Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 9, 2007
Quartet envoy Tony Blair met in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad on Tuesday, as
high level diplomatic efforts are under way to get Israel and the PA to
draft a joint declaration to be endorsed at the US-sponsored Middle East
conference next month.
Blair, who arrived to no fanfare on Monday evening, is scheduled to meet
with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday morning and Defense Minister
Ehud Barak in the evening. An aid to the former British prime minister said
Blair was "obviously talking about some aspects" of the upcoming conference
with the sides.
Blair will not be the only high level diplomat to shuttle between the sides
to try and ensure agreement. US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs
David Welch is scheduled to arrive Wednesday and begin preparing the ground
for the arrival Sunday of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Rice, who was last here on September 19, is scheduled to arrive from Moscow.
According to diplomatic officials, it is not yet clear how many days she
will remain, and what other countries she will visit while in the region.
The officials said there were no immediate plans for a trilateral meeting
between her, Olmert and Abbas.
The officials also said there was no guarantee that, as many expect, she
would announce a date and venue for the Middle East conference, widely
expected to be in late-November in Annapolis, Maryland.
In a related development, Olmert told visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ali
Babacan at a meeting they held on Monday that the US-sponsored conference
was to focus on the Palestinian, not the Syrian, track.
According to officials in the Prime Minister's Office, Babacan said Turkey
would like to see Syria participate. Olmert said Damascus was welcome if
they were there to give support to the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian track,
but that there was no room to expand the meeting to include additional
Asked Tuesday during a Jerusalem Post interview whether the Golan Heights
should come up at the November meeting, Babacan said, "As far as we
understand the Arab peace plan is on the table. But there has been yet no
formal announcement about the date of the meeting, the place of the meeting,
who is going to be invited or what is going to be discussed." The Arab Peace
Plan calls for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
Olmert, meanwhile, is scheduled to travel to Paris and London on October
21-23 for his first meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown since they took over their respective
offices earlier this year. This will be Olmert's first trip abroad since
meeting with President George W. Bush in the US in June.