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Israel, Palestinians eye two-state solution at Maryland summit

  • Story Highlights
  • Summit in Maryland is to restart Mideast peace process
  • More than 100 countries, organizations are expected to attend
  • Abbas, Olmert, Rice have publicly spoken of the possibility of a Palestinian state
  • Summit touted as predecessor to actual negotiations on peace deal
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will travel to Annapolis, Maryland, next week where they hope to jump-start the long-dormant Mideast peace process.

Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Ehud Olmert met in Jerusalem on Monday.

Both leaders received their invitations Tuesday to the November 27 summit.

Few details have been given about the summit, and a State Department spokesman said he was not ready to say who had been invited. Several media reports this week said the United States was trying to garner the support and attendance of Arab nations, which are considered critical to any peace talks.

Invitations will be sent to dozens of countries and organizations and more than 100 people are expected to attend, spokesman Sean McCormack said.

McCormack would not discuss the date for the meeting or its agenda, but Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the summit will begin November 27.

Events in Washington are expected before and after the summit.

Condoleezza Rice spoke on the telephone with Israeli and Palestinian officials Tuesday, McCormack said.

Both sides were working on a statement of principles before the summit and on "what happens after Annapolis." That document has not materialized, McCormack said.

The Annapolis summit, he said, should be viewed as "a beginning of a negotiation" that the United States hopes will result in Israel existing alongside a Palestinian state.

On Monday, as Olmert prepared to meet with Abbas in Jerusalem, the Israeli Cabinet voted to release 441 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture toward Abbas.

Olmert told his Cabinet that he would be traveling to Annapolis next week with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He stressed that the summit "is not a conference for negotiations."

The meeting will lay the foundation for future talks, which "will deal with all the substantive issues that are an inseparable part of the process, which must lead to a solution of national states for two people," Olmert said.

Olmert traveled to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Tuesday to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Earlier this month, Rice spoke with Abbas and Olmert and emerged saying that a Palestinian state was within reach. She said the Annapolis summit could be a "launching pad" for a two-state solution.

"We appear to be on course to prepare seriously for continuous ongoing negotiations," Rice said, appearing at that time with Abbas at a news briefing in the West Bank.

Rice added there were "very clear signs" that Arab states were supporting negotiations and "I can really say without fear of contradiction that everybody's goal is the creation."

Abbas said at the briefing that he, too, was encouraged.

"We are serious to use this opportunity to reach this historical peace which would lead to the establishment of the Palestinian state and its capital East Jerusalem, that will live side by side with the state of Israel," said Abbas. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Washington, DCEhud OlmertMahmoud AbbasCondoleezza Rice

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