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Middle east

Abbas stops off in Turkey ahead of Washington visit

Video by Nicholas RUSHWORTH

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-07

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stopped in Turkey to meet President Abdullah Gul ahead of a planned visit to Washington. Abbas was to offer his condolences over the deaths of eight Turkish activists involved in the doomed Gaza aid flotilla.

AFP - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was headed Sunday for talks in Washington with US President Barack Obama, stopping first in Turkey, amid heightened regional tensions after a deadly Israeli raid on an aid boat.

The Anatolia news agency said Abbas would meet President Abdullah Gul on Monday and attend on Tuesday the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

He was also to pay his condolences over the deaths of eight Turkish activists and a US-Turkish citizen who were killed when Israeli commandos stormed a Gaza-bound aid ship carrying more than 600 people last Monday.

The Turkish-owned boat was part of a six-ship flotilla trying to bust a four-year blockade imposed by Israel on the impoverished and overcrowded Gaza Strip. Another aid boat, the Irish-owned Rachel Corrie was intercepted on Saturday.

Abbas has accused Israel of "state terrorism" over the violent raid on the so-called Freedom Flotilla and said he would ask Barack Obama to make "bold decisions" on the Middle East when he meets the US president on Wednesday.

"The Palestinian people were facing state terrorism when Israel attacked the Freedom Flotilla. The Palestinian people and the entire world are confronted with this terrorism," he said after the raid.

"We have seen daily examples of terrorism with the killings and the expulsions from houses, the confiscation of lands and the siege on Gaza," said Abbas. "We ask the world, how long will this go on?"

His meeting with Obama will take place a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled talks with the US president and rushed home to deal with the political and diplomatic fallout of the raid.

The attack unleashed fury across the globe and particularly in Turkey -- formerly Israel's closest Muslim ally -- which has recalled its ambassador to the Jewish state and scrapped joint military drills.

Ankara, which wants to see Israel punished for its botched operation, is pushing for an international probe into the incident in a call echoed by the Palestinian leadership.

The Palestinian news agency WAFA said Abbas would "present condolences over the martyrs of freedom and will also discuss with the Turkish leadership appropriate action to respond to this crime."

He will then fly to Washington where he will hold talks with Obama on the US-brokered indirect peace talks with Israel -- talks which Abbas says are already running into trouble.

"We are going through difficult talks with the Israelis. There are lots of obstacles," he told a group of young Palestinians on Friday.

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell was in the region this week for the latest round of talks, which the State Department described as "constructive and substantive."

But two days earlier, Abbas had urged the White House to take "bold decisions" in order to change realities on the ground in the troubled Middle East.

"My message to Obama during our meeting in Washington next week will be that we need bold decisions to change the face of the region," Abbas told delegates at a Palestinian investment conference in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

After meeting Obama, Abbas heads to Europe for meetings with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on June 13 and French President Nicolas Sarkozy the following day, before returning home.

Date created : 2010-06-07

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