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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, speaks to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Monday, Nov. 19, 2007
Olmert (right) and Abbas both face domestic problems that will make reaching a deal difficultImage: AP

Low Expectations

DW staff (sms)
November 26, 2007

After key Arab nations agreed to attend a Middle East summit in Annapolis this week, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed Germany's wish for the talks to be a success. But few politicians expect a breakthrough.


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had stressed his great interest in the success of Tuesday's conference in the US state of Maryland, Merkel's spokesman said after the chancellor and prime minister's telephone conversation on Saturday, Nov. 24.

Merkel had brought up an action plan put forward by the European Union, and Olmert had welcomed the EU contribution, the spokesman said.

Earlier, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he saw the participation of a number of Arab countries in the Annapolis summit as "an important signal for peace."

Syria, Saudi Arabia to attend meeting

Steinmeier giving a speech in the Bundestag
Steinmeier said Israelis and Palestinians needed international supportImage: AP

"Israelis and Palestinians face large challenges in the months ahead and need the support of the international community to surmount them," the German foreign minister said.

Arab nations were showing their commitment to making a contribution to peace and stability in the region, said Steinmeier, who is attending the talks under Germany's presidency of the Group of Eight (G8).

Saudi Arabia and Syria, which do not officially recognize Israel, both announced they would also be attending the Annapolis summit, which begins on Tuesday. The countries were absent from a failed 2000 summit hosted by then US President Bill Clinton.

Historic reason for pessimism

Former US President Bill Clinton presides over ceremonies marking the signing of the 1993 peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, with then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, in Sept. 1993
Several peace accords, including the 1993 Oslo Agreement, have collapsedImage: AP

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said Monday he had no expectations of a peace agreement at the upcoming conference.

"There are historical reasons to be pessimistic," Store was quoted as telling Norwegian news agency NTB.

Major differences remain between the Israelis and Palestinians over core issues, such as the status of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

Hamas refuses concessions

Close-up photo of Bush making a statement outside the White House
Bush, who has 14 months left in office, has spent little time on the Mideast conflictImage: AP

Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip have already announced they would not accept any concessions made by Palestinians during the summit.

"The negotiations nowadays are useless and holding the Annapolis conference is a waste of time," Hamas leader Ismail Haniya told reporters on Monday. "Our people will not commit themselves to any resolutions harming Palestinian national principles."

Haniya served as prime minister in a Palestinian unity government until he was dismissed by President Mahmoud Abbas in June, following Hamas' violent takeover of the Gaza Strip. Hamas was not invited to take part in the peace talks.

Even after US President George W. Bush said he was "personally committed" to ending the decades-long conflict with a two-state solution in the Middle East, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino cautioned against expecting any "immediate results" from the conference.

US National Security Advisor Steve Hadley also stressed that the conference was not itself a "negotiating forum," but an "opportunity to move into a negotiating phase between Palestinians and Israelis."

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