Abbas Responds to Questions

Abbas says yes to two states solution, but wants 1967 territory
Jakarta Post, World News, October 23, 2007

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in Indonesia as part of his Asian tour to rally support ahead of U.S.-sponsored Palestine-Israel talks due to take place in Annapolis in the U.S. state of Maryland in November. He spoke to representatives of local media on Monday evening. Excerpts:

Question: Could you explain your mission in visiting Indonesia, and tell us how this visit relates to your upcoming talks with Israel?

Answer: We have had a very close relationship with Indonesia for a long time. Of course we believe that the Indonesian people are very eager to know everything about the Palestinian people as we are Muslims. That’s why I go to Malaysia, Indonesia and then Brunei.

As far as we know, Indonesia will be invited to the (Palestine-Israel) conference, and then we should have more and more consultations with the President (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) and Foreign Minister (Hassan Wirayuda) to go there with a unified position.

The second goal is of course, we are trying to convey our internal condition and the suffering in our economic and social life because of the (Israeli) occupation. So, it is very necessary for us to come here

What do you expect from the international conference in Annapolis?

The conference will handle and solve the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, or at least address the major issues, which are stipulated in the Oslo Accord.

The major issues are Jerusalem, refugees, the settlement of borders, security and water. Now we are negotiating these issues with the Israelis.

I think if we could conclude, and we should conclude, something to go to the conference, and present it there, and we endorse it, then it means we will launch the final status negotiation in order to reach a peace treaty with the Israelis.

Did you offer anything to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to reach a deal for these major issues?

We didn’t offer anything. We put everything on the table according to the road map, the Arab initiatives and (American) President (George) Bush’s vision.

All of these are the terms of reference for us and for them because they are international terms of reference. We will talk about them, and find a solution.

Are you optimistic that these issues will be solved?

The last talk was in 2000. Since then we have not started any talks with the Israelis because they and also the international community were not ready.

But now we feel that the Americans and the international community as a whole is enthusiastic about this conference.

So I believe that we have a good chance to solve our problems. We can’t say that we are optimistic or pessimistic but we can say that we have hope, and we should seize the opportunity.

The most crucial thing for Israel is security. How can you offer security when you are having an internal conflict with Hamas?

Of course, Hamas has committed a coup d’etat and has taken over Gaza, but we control security on all the West Bank. We have made very good progress and we cooperate with the Israelis.

I believe that, according to the road map, 90 percent of our obligations have been handled by ourselves. So the Israelis can’t say anything about handling Hamas and Gaza.

Can you negotiate on the behalf of Palestinians without the support of Hamas?

Of course we can, just as any other country can do… regardless of the fact that there is an opposition. And we have an opposition in Hamas.

So if we achieve a conclusion, we will pass it to a referendum. We are a democratic country, and Hamas has been elected in a democratic way, so we should go to the democratic mechanism.

If we get 50 percent plus from our people it will pass, otherwise it will not pass. So if Hamas controls more than 50 percent it will not pass.

And what about the ideas of a two-state solution the international community has proposed?

This is one of the points we are discussing because it is the vision of President Bush. He talks about a two-state solution in which an independent Palestine lives side-by-side with Israel in stability and peace. We are committed to this vision, and we want the two-state solution.

I think the Israelis now accept this concept, but we want our territory as it was in 1967. And also, President Bush said in his vision that there should be an end to the occupation that took place in 1967.

Does it mean that you oppose the partition of Jerusalem?

We have two Jerusalems — the west and the east. We recognize that the west is Israeli, but they should accept that east Jerusalem is an occupied territory, and should be free as our capital.

And the al-Aqsa Mosque is in east Jerusalem, and it is ours, and hence it should be under Palestinian control.

JP/ Abdul Khalik and Riyadi Suparno

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