Abbas wants return to pre-1967 borders

Other News Materials 10 October 2007 17:28

( AP ) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday laid out his most specific demands for the borders of a future independent state, calling for a full Israeli withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

Abbas' claim comes as Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams are trying to hammer out a joint vision for a future peace deal in time for a U.S.-hosted conference next month.

With Israel seeking to retain parts of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Abbas' comments appeared to set the stage for tough negotiations, which are expected to include complicated arrangements such as land swaps and shared control over holy sites.

In a television interview, Abbas said the Palestinians want to establish a state on 6,205 square kilometers (2,400 square miles) of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It was the first time he has given a precise number for the amount of land he is seeking.

"We have 6,205 square kilometers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," Abbas told Palestine TV. "We want it as it is."

According to Palestinian negotiating documents obtained by The Associated Press, the Palestinian demands include all of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, east Jerusalem and small areas along the West Bank frontier that were considered no-man's land before the 1967 war.

Abbas said his claim is backed by U.N. resolutions. "This is our vision for the Palestinian independent state with full sovereignty on its borders, water and resources."

Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin declined to comment, saying she did not want to prejudice negotiations. But the Palestinian demands appear to exceed anything that Israel would be willing to offer.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held their first working meeting this week as they try to hammer out a joint declaration in time for next month's conference. The U.S. hopes the document will provide a launching ground for full-fledged negotiations on a final peace agreement.

Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Mideast war and hopes in a final peace deal with the Palestinians to hold on to parts of the West Bank where Jewish settlement blocs are located. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Despite Abbas' tough public stance, aides to Abbas said he has agreed in recent talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to exchange West Bank land Israel wants to keep in a final peace deal with an equal amount of Israeli land. This would allow Israel to annex the West Bank area where the settlement blocs are located.

As part of the proposal, Abbas offered Olmert about 2 percent of the West Bank, the aides said. Olmert is seeking some 6-8 percent of the West Bank, but has said the exact amount of territory should be decided in future negotiations. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters with the media.

In exchange for the West Bank land, Israel is reportedly considering transferring to the Palestinians a strip of area between the Gaza Strip and West Bank to allow for a connection between them.

Abbas said the joint statement at the conference must deal with the main hurdles preventing a final peace agreement.

"The international conference must include the six major issues that are Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, water and security," Abbas said.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian militant affiliated with Abbas' Fatah Party in a raid early Wednesday, members of the armed group said.

The shooting also wounded a senior militant from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the group said. The wounded man, Sufian Kandeel, had recently signed a deal granting him amnesty from Israel, but had not fulfilled several conditions, group spokesman Mahdi Abu Ghazaleh said.

Israel's army said it was checking into the report.

Witnesses said the Israeli soldiers entered Nablus' Old City, known as a militant stronghold, disguised in Palestinian security forces uniforms and carrying Kalashnikov rifles typical of the forces, witnesses said.

They spoke Arabic to passers-by, asking "how are you," and raising no suspicions as they took positions on rooftops, the witnesses said.

The troops shot toward about a dozen Palestinian militants, some of whom were armed, and wounded Kandeel, who was unarmed, Abu Ghazaleh said. As the militants tried to evacuate Kandeel, the troops shot again, killing another unarmed man, he said.

Members of the group had said earlier that the two men were armed, but Abu Ghazaleh, who was at the scene of the shooting, said after that they were not.

Israel has in recent weeks offered several gestures to Abbas in an effort to strengthen the leader in the eyes of Palestinians.

Hamas' seizure of power in the Gaza Strip in intense fighting in June, left Abbas and a Western-backed government in control of the West Bank.