Palestinian officials say no pressure to resume talks as Hamas slams PNA-Israel ties

11:13, February 03, 2010      

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Palestinian officials said on Tuesday that there is no European pressure on the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to resume the stalled peace talks with Israel, while Gaza-ruling Islamic Hamas movement slammed ties between the PNA and Israel.

Earlier reports said that U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell asked the European Union to exert pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the PNA to accept an immediate, unconditioned resumption of peace negotiations with the Jewish state.

The East Jerusalem-based al-Quds daily reported on Tuesday that Mitchell had called on the European Union to press Abbas to change his mind that he won not go back to the negotiating table unless Israel freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

However, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told "Voice of Palestine" radio that the Palestinian leadership and President Abbas "hadn't come under any pressure at all."

"During our visit to Russia, Britain and Germany, we felt an understanding of the Palestinian position," he said.

Erekat, meanwhile, urged the international community "to pressure Israel to halt building settlements and accept the resumption of the negotiations from the point they stopped at in December 2008."

"The Palestinians want to go back to negotiations, free from Israeli preconditions," he added.

On Monday, Abbas said he would accept going back to talks if Israel halted settlement activities for three months and agreed on land swaps based on the 1967 borders.

Erekat had told Xinhua earlier on Monday that the Palestinians are willing to resume the stalled peace talks with Israel soon if the latter halts settlement activities for three months.

Erekat said that settlement activities should be completely halted in all the West Bank and in the occupied East Jerusalem for three months in parallel with reaching an agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian statehood on 1967-border territories.

"Accepting resuming the talks with Israel means to kick off direct talks between the two sides over final status issues under the condition of a complete cessation of settlement activities for three months," said Erekat.

"This is not a retreat," Erekat said. "I say that the final negotiations need three months, and in that time, the settlement must be stopped."

Meanwhile, Hamas movement on Tuesday slammed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for participating in an Israeli security conference held in the northern Israeli city of Herzliya.

Fayyad joined the conference, although peace talks between Israel and the PNA had been stalled since December 2008. Hamas movement slammed the current PNA ties with Israel, mainly security cooperation in the West Bank, describing it as cooperation " against Hamas and the Palestinian resistance."

"Fayyad's participation means that the Western-backed (PNA) has given up all national rules," said Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas which controls Gaza.

Fayyad, whose government holds sway in the West Bank, joined Herzliya Conference, which is the annual meeting to discuss the Jewish state's regional and strategic security in the Israeli city of Herzliya.

"The cooperation has reached a level in which the PNA participates in making the occupation's policies, and Fayyad's participation shows he is in harmony with the occupation and its projects," Abu Zuhri added.

Fayyad's contribution to the conference "doesn't reflect the Palestinian people's trends," he said.

Abbas appointed Fayyad as prime minister after Hamas routed pro- Abbas forces and seized control of Gaza in 2007.

Hamas also warned of more deterioration in inter-Palestinian ties if peace talks between Israel and the (PNA) resumed.

President Abbas and his Fatah party "should pay attention to the internal Palestinian situation and rehabilitate the national project," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman. "They should also give the priority to the inter-Palestinian relations, not to the Palestinian-Israeli ones."

"Any return to the negotiations with the Zionist enemy would be a serious setback with more serious consequences on the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people's rights," Barhoum added in a statement sent to the media.

Source: Xinhua
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