Brunei welcomes Abbas peace efforts
By Azlan Othman & Zaim Zaini

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam appreciated the efforts that have been and continued to be made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in order to achieve peace, not only in Palestine, but also in the region.

His Majesty also wished the Palestinians all success at the conference (to be held in New York) and post-conference.

The Palestinian president invited His Majesty to visit Palestine after its liberation and hoped that it would happen very soon.

"The president hopes to pray with His Majesty at the Al-Aqsa mosque, the first 'Kiblat' or prayer direction and the third holiest mosque in Islam, for the stability of our two people," said Dr Riadh al-Maliki, Minister of Information & Minister in Charge of Foreign Affairs, in an interview with the Borneo Bulletin yesterday following the four-eye meeting between His Majesty and President Abbas Tuesday at the Istana Nurul Iman.

Abbas, who left Brunei yesterday, arrived here Tuesday from Indonesia to drum up support from Muslim allies in the region ahead of a planned international conference on peace in the Middle East.

Dr Riadh said that His Majesty was briefed by President Abbas on the upcoming conference to be hosted by the US on Palestine and Israel and Palestine's internal problem.

Dr Riadh added that President Abbas expressed his happiness to be in Brunei after so many attempts in the past to make a visit. "The timing was very important as it came before the convening of such a major conference in Annapolis, Maryland November end or early December," he said.

President Abbas briefed His Majesty on the preparation, developments, expectations and the president's meetings with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last month, with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and with US President George W Bush during the recent UN General Assembly in New York.

"We expect the Palestinian and Israel teams to negotiate on the document agreed upon by both sides. If that's the case, there will be a conference in Annapolis convened by President Bush. The documents will be endorsed by over 30 countries that will attend the conference, including Malaysia and Indonesia," he added.

"After the endorsement of the document, we expect the Palestinian and Israeli teams to enter into detailed negotiations on Palestine's six pending issues including Jerusalem, refugees, settlement, borders and security.

"If these negotiations lead to positive results within the timetable, then we could say it would be the end to the conflict and we will be signing the treaty. If that's the case, then President Abbas will take this treaty back to the people for a referendum and if a majority of our people accept it, then it should be adhered to including the Hamas," Dr Riadh said.

"President Abbas also briefed His Majesty on the internal problems inside the Palestinian territory especially with the coup d' etat initiated by Hamas to overthrow the legitimate government in Gaza strip. He explained to His Majesty exactly what has happened and briefed His Majesty that during (the last) five years, he has initiated dialogue with Hamas in order to avert civil war and the collapse of the government.

"His Majesty also asked the president of his recent visits to Malaysia and Indonesia," he added.

Asked whether Brunei will be present at the Annapolis conference, he said, "No. Until this moment, only about 30 countries will be invited including India, South Africa and Brazil. Other countries like Greece, Spain, Mexico and Switzerland have shown their interest to attend the conference and we have already informed the US administration and are awaiting to hear from them.

"We did not hear any specific desire for Brunei to be invited or be present in Annapolis. If that's going to be the case, then of course we would welcome such a request and will pass it to the Americans.

"I told His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, that we have agreed with Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey and others to set up a bilateral mechanism to brief and update them on the negotiations that we are having with Israel.

"If the Brunei government wishes to be briefed as well in terms of the political development and preparations, we are more than willing to do so," Dr Riadh added. - Borneo Bulletin (25th Oct 2007)