Abbas: upcoming Mideast conference “a new beginning”

By xinhua

United Nations : Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said here on Friday that the upcoming U.S.-sponsored Mideast conference offers “a new beginning” for serious negotiations leading to the end of the prolonged Israeli occupation and the realization of a two-state vision.

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Addressing the UN General Assembly, the Palestinian leader said: “Today there is not the slightest obstacle to promoting the holding of a peace meeting, which will take place shortly,” referring to U.S. plans to stage such a gathering in November.

“We are very committed to the substance of that meeting, as proposed,” Abbas said. “We would hope all parties would sit down to negotiation.”

“It is time to seize the opportunity for action by the international community to relaunch the peace process and transform the international meeting,” Abbas said.

The opportunity was there, he said.

“Is it not time to create an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and to find a just solution… to the problem of refugees to put an end to the suffering that they have endured for six decades?” Abbas asked.

He further called for an end to Jewish settlements, the construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank, to the policy of “collective punishment” and “murders and assassinations” carried out by Israeli forces.

“Is it not time for our people to enjoy liberty and independence as any other people do and to coexist peacefully with their neighbors, including Israel?” he said.

“From this podium, I call upon the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with whom I have had in-depth talks, to break the cycle of missed opportunities,” Abbas added.

It was reported that the coming Mideast peace conference is due to open on Nov. 15 in Annapolis, some 30 miles (some 50 kilometers) northeast of the U.S. capital of Washington D.C..

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will host the meeting. Both Abbas and Olmert are expected to attend. U.S. President George W. Bush may attend parts of the meeting, local reports said.

Rice visited the Middle East earlier this month to try to promote peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian side.

The Middle East peace process has been stalled due to the violence between the two sides as well as the internal strife among Palestinian factions.