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Jordan's King: Without progress this year, there's no future for the Mideast peace process

Jordan's King: Without progress this year, there's no future for the Mideast peace process
Date: 19.10.08
Source: AFP
By Agence France-Presse

MADRID (AFP) — Jordan's King Abdullah II said he doubted a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal will be clinched by January 20 when President George W. Bush steps down, in an interview published on Saturday in Spain's El Pais daily.

"For the first time I view myself as pessimistic. And I believe I am one of the most optimistic leaders in the Middle East," said the monarch, who starts a a tour of Spain later Saturday.

"The success of the peace process will depend on whether there are successful advances between Israelis and Palestinians when the next US administration takes over," he said.

"If we manage nothing by the end of the year, given the uncertainty between Israel and Palestine, there will be no future for the peace process," the monarch said, underlining that this prospect "scared everybody".

Abdullah said "Israel must decide if it wants to be a fortress or involve itself in the Muslim and Arab world."

US President George W. Bush hosted a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November last year that launched the first serious Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in seven years -- with the goal of a peace agreement by the end of the administration.

The negotiations have made little visible progress since then, however, despite Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's joint pledge to try to reach a full agreement by the end of 2008.

The two sides remain deeply divided on the core issues of the decades-old conflict, including the future status of Jerusalem, the fate of some 4.6 million Palestinian refugees, and continuing Israeli settlement activity.

The talks were dealt a further blow last month when Olmert resigned amid a series of corruption allegations, plunging the Jewish state into what could be months of political turmoil and uncertainty.