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Obama, Abbas Meet Wednesday To Discuss Mideast Peace Process

  • Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama hosts Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday, to discuss ways to keep the Middle East peace process going. Fallout from Israel's May 31 commando raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza may threaten the talks.

The Palestinian president is expected to ask President Obama to make what he calls bold decisions on Middle East peace.

Mr. Abbas made his comment last week, at the opening of an investment conference in the West Bank.

Senior Palestinian officials are reported to be saying Mr. Abbas will ask the U.S. president to put pressure on Israel to help the current round of indirect peace talks to succeed.

In those discussions, U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell has been relaying messages between Israel and the Palestinians for the past month. The talks are scheduled to last four months, with face-to-face negotiations to follow.

In his meeting with President Abbas, Mr. Obama is expected to try to prevent Arab anger over the Gaza incident from putting the so-called proximity talks in jeopardy.

The U.S. State Department has described the proximity talks as constructive and substantive, but Mr. Abbas has called them difficult, and said they have been strewn with lots of obstacles.

This will be the second meeting of the U.S. and Palestinian leaders since Mr. Obama took office in January, 2009, and the first since the Israeli raid.

The convoy in the Mediterranean Sea was trying to break an Israeli blockade and deliver aid to Gaza, which is ruled by Mr. Abbas' rival organization Hamas. Nine people died, eight of them Turkish citizens.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul says representatives of 21 states meeting Tuesday at an Asian regional summit in Istanbul denounced Israel's actions.

Mr. Obama had been scheduled to meet with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House last week. But after the flotilla incident, the Israeli leader canceled the visit and returned home from Canada, where he had had a previous meeting. White House officials say they plan to reschedule.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden also discussed the peace process and the Gaza situation with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak while visiting Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday.

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