The head of the Palestinian Authority says negotiations with Israel are not making any progress. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is quoted as saying that nine months of peace talks with Israel have failed to bring agreement on any of the core issues. That would include the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements and the borders of a future Palestinian state. Mr. Abbas told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that "the gaps between the sides are very wide."
Israeli spokesman Mark Regev admits that there are gaps but says a lot of progress has been made.
"The discussions we are having today with the Palestinians are quite serious, quite possibly the most serious discussions ever between Israeli and Palestinian sides," he said.
Mr. Abbas said it is "doubtful" that the sides could achieve Washington's goal of a peace agreement before President Bush leaves office in January. But Regev is more upbeat.
"And I hope, I hope it is possible to achieve that agreement by the end of this year," he said.
Another obstacle to progress is that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans to resign next week over a corruption scandal, though he could remain in office as caretaker prime minister for months. Mr. Abbas said he would continue to work for peace until Mr. Olmert's last day in office, and then with whomever succeeds him.