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Palestinian leader expresses pessimism over US-sponsored peace conference - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Palestinian demonstrator in a wheelchair flees from tear gas fired by Israeli troops, not seen, during a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah, Nov. 16, 2007 (AP)

A Palestinian demonstrator in a wheelchair flees from tear gas fired by Israeli troops, not seen, during a demonstration against Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah, Nov. 16, 2007 (AP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Agencies) – The Palestinian leadership expressed pessimism for the success of the upcoming US peace conference due to Israel’s position over key issues, a Palestinian diplomat said Saturday.

During a meeting at the ranch of Saudi King Abdullah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas voiced his “dissatisfaction with the Israelis over their unwillingness to achieve the minimum level of what is acceptable by Palestinians,” said Jamal al-Shobaki, Palestinian ambassador to Riyadh.

The Saudi king, who has previously expressed skepticism over the conference, like many Arab leaders, echoed Abbas’ concerns, the ambassador said.

The Arab side is calling for the implementation of the first phase of the peace process’ road map, which includes halt in the construction and a dismantling of settlements in addition to the formation of a clear agenda for the conference and a timetable for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the aftermath of the conference, said the official.

“The three issues are intertwined and give a clear indication of whether Israelis are serious or not,” al-Shobaki said. “But the indications we have received so far from Israelis are not positive.”

“If political momentum and international pressures haven’t worked in halting construction of settlements, who or what could?” al-Shobaki asked.

Diplomatic efforts to convene the conference, expected in Annapolis, Maryland, have moved into high gear while Saudi Arabia, like other heavyweight Arab countries, has yet to decide whether it will participate in the conference. Arabs, at odds on whether the meeting has the ability to try to end the decades-long conflict, will hold a meeting in Cairo on Nov. 22 to announce a unified Arab position.

Saudi King Abdullah (R) greets  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 16 November 2007 (EPA)

Saudi King Abdullah (R) greets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 16 November 2007 (EPA)

A Palestinian demonstrator uses a sling-shot to throw stones at Israeli soldiers, not seen, during a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah, Nov. 16, 2007 (AP)

A Palestinian demonstrator uses a sling-shot to throw stones at Israeli soldiers, not seen, during a demonstration against Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah, Nov. 16, 2007 (AP)