Kofi Annan is holding top-level talks in the Middle East in a bid to kickstart the stalled “road map” plan. On his first trip to the region in four years, the UN Secretary-General was welcomed by Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon on Sunday. Today he will meet the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas was interviewed by Israeli television, ahead of his latest attempt to persuade militant groups to lay down their arms.
A suicide bombing last month shattered a truce jointly declared with Ariel Sharon. Abbas expressed hopes that talks with militant factions in Cairo this week will lead to a ceasefire announcement by all of them. But violent clashes among Palestinians signalled the scale of the challenge he faces. In Hebron, student supporters of Hamas exchanged blows with those loyal to the ruling Fatah party.A Palestinian power-struggle is the last thing Abbas needs. On a more positive note, he will be hoping for results from meetings today between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. One will focus on Israel’s promised handover of West Bank cities. The other will deal with its pledge to release hundreds more Palestinian prisoners.