PARIS France on Tuesday outlined its plans for a donors' conference next week aimed at raising funds to support the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as it seeks to negotiate a lasting peace with Israel.
Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged at a meeting in the U.S. city of Annapolis, Maryland, last week to try to forge a treaty by the end of 2008 under a U.S.-backed push for peace in the Middle East.
France has invited 69 countries to the Paris donors' conference, which will be held on December 17 -- including the 44 states that attended the Annapolis Middle East conference, as well as the European Union member states and major U.N. donors.
"(The conference's) aim is to mobilize donors and to provide financial and political support for the Palestinian Authority," the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Annapolis meeting saw the first formal peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in seven years, aiming to create a state in Gaza and the West Bank, together home to 4 million Palestinians.
But that hinges on Abbas getting Hamas Islamists to give up the Gaza Strip and disarm. Abbas has done little to explain how he expects to achieve such a feat, either through new elections or militarily.
Olmert has vowed not to carry out any peace deal until Abbas reins in militants, including Palestinian Hamas Islamists who seized control of Gaza in June and have rejected U.S. President George W. Bush's push for peace.
Hamas has vowed to undermine Abbas's talks with Olmert by keeping up its fight against Israel.
The Paris meeting aimed at bolstering Abbas will be chaired by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Middle East envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.
The Foreign Ministry said there would be roughly 90 delegations, including international organizations such as the Arab League, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia)