NABLUS, West Bank (AFP) - Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Saturday urged US president-elect Barack Obama to apply himself to the Middle East peace process as soon as he enters the White House on January 20. "Ending the occupation and creating an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital are the key to security, peace and stability in the region, and we turn towards the new administration headed by Barack Obama," Abbas said. He was speaking more than 200 foreign businessmen in the northern West Bank city of Nablus at a conference on investment in the Palestinian territories. "We urge him to immediately apply himself to the peace process, on the basis of implementing international resolutions linked to the Palestinian question, including the Arab plan," he said. "For six years we have talked about the Arab initiative which can be summed up thus: withdraw from Palestine, the (occupied Syrian) Golan Heights and the Shebaa farms (on the Lebanon-Syria-Israeli border) and 57 Arab and Islamic states will recognise you," Abbas said, addressing the Israelis. "What more do you want? Instead of living in an island of peace you will live in an ocean of peace." Meanwhile, Mahmud Abbas said that private sector growth was the key to boosting the West Bank economy but that it was being held back by the Israeli roadblocks that pockmark the occupied territory. "We want the private sector to play its full role in the Palestinian territories, to be successful and be profitable," Abbas told a conference of more than 200 foreign businessmen in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. "The Palestinian government must provide all the practical, legal and logistical assistance required to make the economy and the private sector develop and grow." He said the biggest obstacle to growth was the network of some 600 roadblocks the Israeli army operates around the West Bank, which seriously hamper the free movement of people and goods. "There can be no real sustained development under occupation despite all our best efforts," Abbas said. "We must make clear to the whole world that the occupation, the settlements and the roadblocks are obstacles that must go." A World Bank report published last month found that the West Bank's economy is suffering from a precarious lack of investment despite increased international aid, largely because of the Israeli restrictions on movement. Foreign aid, the World Bank said, "has succeeded in doing little more than slowing down the deterioration of the economy, despite ever larger volumes." Abbas announced on Saturday that the Palestinian Investment Fund is to sign a 25 million dollar deal with Nablus city council to build an industrial park housing 1,000 businesses and creating 5,000 jobs. At a similar investment conference in Bethlehem in May, the PIF announced a 200-million-dollar deal with the Saudi-based Land Holding company to build a commercial and residential centre in Ramallah where Abbas has his base. The role of the Palestinian economy in advancing a solution to the Middle East conflict has become a political issue in Israel in the run-up to snap parliamentary elections called for February. The leader of the right-wing opposition Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been advocating what he calls an "economic peace" with the Palestinians built from the grassroots up. On Wednesday, he said he wanted "to weave an economic peace alongside the political process" that "gives a stake in peace for the moderate elements in the Palestinian society." But Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, a former International Monetary Fund economist who is also finance minister, rejected the idea earlier this week. "Even though I am an economist by profession and I appreciate the importance of the economy very much, the solution is not to be found in money or in industrial zones," he told the Israeli daily Haaretz. Netanyahu's leading rival in the race to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, has been pushing for a continuation of the peace talks with the Palestinians which were relaunched last year and in which she has been chief Israeli negotiator.