Palestinians want settlement freeze to renew to save talks

09:30, August 24, 2010      

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The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on Monday urged Israel to extend partial freeze of settlement activities in the West Bank to save peace talks from possible failure.

If Israel did not renew the freeze, which ends next month, "it means it has decided to end the negotiations," Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, told a news conference.

The negotiations would start in Washington on September 2 upon an invitation by the United States and Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, all members of the so-called Quartet.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the international mediators that he won't be a party in any peace negotiations if Israel invited tenders for new settlements, Erekat said.

In November 2009, at a time of increased international pressure to resume the negotiations that had been stalled since December 2008, Israel announced a 10-month moratorium in constructions in the occupied West Bank. However the Palestinians refused to renew the negotiations and demanded Israel to freeze settlement also in East Jerusalem.

"We can't negotiate about an occupied land while settlement is being boosted on it," Erekat said.

But for most of Palestinian factions, the Palestinian leadership's acceptance to hold face-to-face talks with Israel next month, when a four-month indirect proximity discussions ends, was a retreat from a national principle that negotiations can not happen without a clear Israeli commitment halting settlement.

Earlier, Israel Radio reported that Israel was unlikely going to renew the 10-month freeze.

Erekat explained that the Palestinian leadership accepted the invitation to renew the discussions because of the Quartet's latest statement "which has clearly showed that the peace process was aiming at resolving all final-status issues within 12 months."

Meanwhile, a Palestinian official has denied reports that President Abbas has asked the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to give him one month to negotiate with Israel and assess the talks.

"Abbas only told the committee that he is very serious to go to the negotiations in line with the Quartet statement," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua.

The official confirmed that Abbas had only informed the United States that the negotiations would stop if new Jewish settlement plans emerged.

Earlier in the day, Erekat told Xinhua that the PNA asked the United States to secure as much international representation as possible when it launches Israeli-Palestinian peace talks next month.

"The PNA requested officially from the U.S. administration to invite as many countries as possible" in September 2 Washington meeting that would declare the beginning of the negotiations, Erekat said.

Erekat said the PNA wants the meeting to be similar to the 2007 Annapolis conference that marked a new launch of direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Source: Xinhua


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