Ma'an News Agency
August 26, 2009 - 12:00am

Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to reform the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and expressed solidarity with Lebanon and Syria on Wednesday at an emergency session of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) in Ramallah.

Abbas called for the PNC meeting in order to appoint new members to fill vacant positions on the PLO’s high-ranking Executive Committee.

Abbas vowed to give the PLO a more active role in Palestinian affairs saying, “We will endeavor to promote the role of the PLO’s Executive Committee and get it to function regularly in order to play an effective role especially in peace negotiations with Israel.”

Speaking at the beginning of the session Abbas admitted that the PLO has not
been functioning recently.

“We will find a creative way to secure that the PLO will be a reference for the Palestinian Authority when it comes to decisions related to national and strategic affairs. This will not affect the performance of the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

During his speech, Abbas reiterated refusal of any notions of alternative homeland for the Palestinian people, or any discussion of a temporary state as Israeli officials have suggested.

Abbas also said that the PNC meeting was in part a follow-up of the recent Fatah party conference in Bethlehem. “The success of Fatah sixth conference should motivate us to hold a complete PNC session during the coming months. However, this emergency meeting is held for a specific task, and it can’t replace the main session agreed on in 2005 in Cairo,” Abbas explained.

During the speech, Abbas reiterated the solidarity of the Palestinian people with neighboring Arab states.

“Our policy has always been obvious. We haven’t been, nor will we be part of a coalition against the other in the Arab world. We have friendship relations with all Arab countries, and we are adamant that any political settlement for the conflict in the region must include all occupied Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese lands,” Abbas said.

The PNC, conceived as the Palestinian parliament in exile, first met in Jerusalem in 1964. The 669-member body last met in Gaza in 1998, at the insistence of Israel’s then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to annul the portions of the PLO charter that call for the destruction of Israel.

Formally, the PNC includes all 88 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the post-Oslo parliament of the Palestinian Authority. In reality many PLC members who are in Israeli jails or trapped in Gaza will be unable to attend.

PNC members residing in exile have also expressed discontent with the decision to hold the meeting in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, which means that Israeli travel restrictions will decide who is to attend and who is turned away.

Hamas, which holds a majority in the PLC but is formally excluded from the PLO, has rejected the meeting as a violation of a 2005 agreement that calls for the Islamic movement to be integrated into the organization.


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