JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to pursue peace talks with Ehud Olmert until the scandal-hit Israeli prime minister’s last day in office, and with whoever succeeds him, an Israeli newspaper said on Friday.
But Abbas told the Haaretz daily he doubted the sides could meet Washington’s expectations of reaching even a limited peace accord before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office in January.
Olmert, whom police have recommended indicting for corruption, has said he will resign after his Kadima party chooses a successor in a leadership contest next week.
“We will negotiate with any prime minister elected by Israel,” Haaretz quoted Abbas as saying. “But I intend to negotiate with him (Olmert) until his last moment in office.”
Olmert has also said he will pursue the U.S.-brokered peace talks for as long as he remains in office, but his expected departure has cast doubt on the negotiations, launched at an Annapolis summit last November.
Abbas told the Israeli daily that “until now, there has been no achievement in negotiations between us.” He added: “I doubt we will be able to seal an agreement by the end of 2008.”
Olmert said Thursday he still hoped a “significant agreement” could be reached by that time.
Despite his plans to resign, Olmert is likely to stay on as caretaker prime minister until a successor forms a new government, or a snap parliamentary election is held, a process that could take weeks or months.
Olmert could also seek to suspend himself from duty if he is charged. He has denied wrongdoing in response to police allegations he submitted double travel receipts and accepted cash envelopes from a U.S. Jewish fundraiser.