Mahmoud Abbas has used his inauguration as Palestinian president to call for a mutual ceasefire with Israel. He condemned both Israeli military operations and Palestinian militants, saying it was time to discuss final status issues and bring the conflict to an end once and for all. The ceremony in the West Bank town of Ramallah was overshadowed by the Israeli decision to break off contact with the Palestinian Authority in the wake of a militant attack.
Six Israelis and three Palestinians died in the strike at a Gaza Strip border crossing on Thursday. Earlier today there was further violence with Israeli troops killing two Palestinians in the central Gaza Strip. The clashes highlight the challenges facing Abbas – who has to combine his aim of holding peace talks with the Israelis with pressure from Palestinian militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Abbas was elected to the job last Sunday with around 62 per cent of the vote. He was a clear frontrunner in the campaign, and was the international community’s preferred candidate. Again today Abbas committed himself to the key demands made by Arafat, including a right of return for Palestinian refugees and East Jerusalem as the capital of a viable Palestinian state.
The 69-year-old, who is also known as Abu Mazen, is a founder member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. He is considered one of the architects of the 1993 Oslo peace process.