Abbas warns of 'difficult impasse' in peace talks
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas warned yesterday of an "extremely difficult impasse" if a peace deal is not reached with Israel before US President George W. Bush leaves office in January.
"If President Bush's term ends without an accord we will find ourselves at an extremely difficult impasse, and we Palestinians will have to look at what measures we can take if that is the case," Abbas told AFP on board his flight back to the Middle East which made a stopover in Scotland.
Abbas was in the White House on Thursday to meet Bush who is pushing for a peace deal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before the end of his term early next year.
The Palestinian leader said that Bush "clearly realises that time is short, but he remains hopeful of being able to achieve something."
Bush said after meeting Abbas that a Palestinian state was "a high priority, for me and my administration -- a viable state, a state that doesn't look like Swiss cheese, a state that provides hope."
Abbas has called on the United States to use its influence to implement the so-called "roadmap" for Middle East peace and "achieve Bush's vision of two states" -- an independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel.
In their talks, Abbas said he and the American president clearly stated their positions, and he applauded the Bush administration's active diplomacy to reach an accord by the start of next year.
At the same time, Abbas admitted there was still a "wide gap" between the Palestinian and Israeli positions on key issues.
"All the issues under discussion are difficult," he said.
"We told President Bush that there are three main obstacles -- continuing to expand Jewish settlements and maintain roadblocks in the occupied West Bank, and the question of borders which we insist must be based on the 1967 borders."
Israel occupied the West Bank and captured Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war, and later annexed it.
Abbas added, however, that he did not rule out "slight modifications" to the borders in order to reach a peace agreement with the Jewish state.
Meanwhile, the teenage daughter of a Hamas chief was killed and eight people were wounded in an Israeli air raid at dawn on the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Palestinian health officials said yesterday.
The 14-year-old, Maryam Talat Mahuf, died when a missile fired by an Israeli aircraft hit her house in Beit Lahiya north of Gaza City, they said, adding that the eight others were wounded.