Palestinians stress on settlement freeze before directtalks with Israel

17:23, August 16, 2010      

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by Fares Akram, Osama Radi

The Palestinian leadership stressed late Sunday that Israel must stop all forms of settlement activities before talking about launching direct negotiations.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad expressed the Palestinian stance late Sunday after holding separate meetings with visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere in Ramallah.

Meanwhile, Israel decided to expand classrooms at Jewish settlements in the West Bank despite a 10-month freeze on settlement activities that has been in effect for months, provoking the Palestinians to demand a full suspension of settlement constructions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Stopping settlement activities and setting a clear agenda for the negotiations "are the real entry to start direct negotiations leading to an independent Palestinian statehood with (East) Jerusalem as its capital," Abbas told the Norwegian delegation, the official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.

Earlier, Fayyad said the peace process "needs credibility and seriousness" to secure its "two state solution" goal be achieved, calling on the international community to press Israel to "stop settlement activities completely, especially in Jerusalem and its surroundings," according to Wafa.

Since May, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel have been holding indirect talks through the United States in a bid to bridge the gaps that prevent the resumption of the face-to- face talks.

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