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Palestinian President Optimistic Middle East Crisis Can Be Solved


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he hopes peace negotiations to establish a Palestinian state will be successfully concluded by the end of 2008. On a visit to Indonesia, he also stressed the importance of reconciliation with Hamas in order to end the Middle East crisis. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told a joint news conference with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta Monday he was confident the Middle East crisis would be solved by the end of 2008.

Mr. Abbas is on an Asian tour to win support from Muslim leaders ahead of a U.S.-sponsored meeting with Israel. Due to be held in the U.S. state of Maryland later this year, that meeting aims to find a way for the two sides to return to the negotiating table after seven years of bloodshed.

Mr. Abbas says both sides are working on a document to be presented at the meeting. It is supposed to address a range of difficult issues surrounding Palestinian statehood, such as the drawing of borders, what to do with the millions of Palestinian refugees, and the fate of Jerusalem.

Speaking to reporters in Arabic, Mr. Abbas says he hopes both sides can make the document acceptable to all parties - the Palestinians, Israelis, and the international community.

Mr. Abbas also stressed the importance of reconciliation with Hamas and acknowledged that Hamas is a part of Palestine and cannot be separate.

But the Palestinian president warns that because Hamas carried out a coup d'etat against the legitimate government it could divide Palestine and dissolve the peace efforts. He says they must work to together to achieve their goals.

President Yudhoyono said he welcomed U.S. efforts to help with the Middle East crisis and said Indonesia was also taking part in efforts to support the peace process.

He says Indonesia, along with other Asian countries and South Africa will arrange a conference about "capacity building" for Palestinians. He did not elaborate.

Indonesia is a secular, democratic nation with the world's largest number of Muslims. Mr. Yudhoyono is keen for the nation to take a more active role in resolving the crisis in the Middle East.

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