Abbas calls on Palestinian militants to 'end violence' against Israel

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The Independent Online

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas today called for "an end to violence against Israelis everywhere," during the Middle East peace summit in the Jordanian resort of Aqaba.

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reiterated support for Palestinian statehood but insisted that Israel remain a Jewish state and that no Palestinian refugees be allowed to return.

The summit, brokered by President George Bush, was held at King Abdullah's summer palace.

"I would think the statements fall short of a few of the things we would like to see," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled.

The three–way summit marks the official launch of the internationally backed peace "road map," a three–year plan that aims to end 32 months of violence and lead to the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

Mr Sharon said that a Palestinian state "will be totally demilitarized and will be the home of the Palestinian diaspora, and Palestinian refugees will not be allowed to settle in Israel."

The Palestinians fear recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would mean abandoning their call for Palestinian refugees and their descendants – about four million people altogether – to return to former homes in Israel, according to Palestinian officials.

Israel has repeatedly said it would not recognize the so–called Palestinian "right of return," which could wipe out the Jewish majority in Israel.

One of the summit's most important achievements is that it confirms Mr Abbas as the true leader of the Palestinian people, Mr Peled said. The United States and Israel have sidelined Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, accusing him of links to terrorism.