PLO approval of proximity talks gets Fatah backing, Hamas rejection

10:51, March 08, 2010      

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by Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party on Sunday voiced support for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)'s approval of a U.S. proposal to hold proximity talks with Israel, while rival Islamic Hamas movement slammed the decision.

Fayez Abu Eita, Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, told Xinhua that Fatah backs the PLO's decision to accept the Arab League's approval to go for four-month indirect talks with Israel.

"Fatah accepts the proposal of going for indirect talks with Israel, considering that our talks won't be direct with Israel, our direct talks will be with the American Administration," Abu Eita said, adding that "the time limit for the indirect talks will be four months."

He said "the indirect negotiations will tackle the issues of borders, security and lands," adding "if the United States succeed during the indirect talks in getting the Israeli approval that the talks will lead to establishing an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders, then we will go to direct talks."

Earlier on Sunday, the PLO executive committee chaired by Abbas held a three-hour meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, upon Fatah's request, to discuss the Arab League backing for the U.S. proposal on holding four-month indirect peace talks with Israel.

After their two-day meeting in Cairo, Arab League foreign ministers on Wednesday gave a green light to Abbas to resume talks with Israel on the bases of the U.S. offer brought forward by Middle East envoy George Mitchell. He arrived in Israel on Saturday to hold talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Such an Arab nod would enable Abbas to restore negotiations with Israel after 15 months of a hiatus. Abbas, however, still holds that Israel must stop building settlements in the West Bank and in the occupied East Jerusalem before any face-to-face negotiations.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO's executive committee, told a news conference following the meeting that "the Palestinian leadership has decided to give a chance to the U.S. proposal."

"The proximity talks would focus on the borders of the future Palestinian statehood and security concerns," he said, noting that "the discussions are restricted by a time limit of four months."

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Arab states would assess the results of the negotiations "and then decide either to continue the talks or go to alternatives" such as resorting to the UN Security Council, Abed Rabbo said.

He said the Palestinians want their state to be created on the lands that Israel occupied in the 1967 war, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. He urged the Middle East Quartet to "follow up the indirect discussions and draw up a political base for steps that would come after these talks."

The Quartet peace mediators, which comprise the Unites States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, would meet in Moscow on March 19 to discuss the possibilities of resuming the stalled peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abu Eita warned that "if the indirect talks don't achieve any progress, the Palestinian leadership would get back to the Arab League follow-up committee to make the proper decision," adding that Fatah recommended to form a highest national committee to follow up the indirect talks.

"The national committee will include five Fatah central committee members, as well as other factions' representatives and independent figures," Abu Eita said.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, said that the PNA insistence to start indirect talks with Israel "would end the political isolation of Israel following the UN fact-finding report and the assassination of Hamas commander in Dubai."

Hamas spokesman in Gaza Fawzi Barhoum told Xinhua that the PNA responded to the Israeli and U.S. pressure "which represent a great danger on the Palestinian people's rights and weaken them from protecting their holy shrines that are violated by Israel."

"Hamas rejects resuming the talks with Israel whether it is direct or indirect," said Barhoum.

"The talks they are talking about are ill talks and will not achieve any fruitful results that would serve the highest interests of the Palestinian people," he said.

Source: Xinhua
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