Palestinians seek progress in Mideast talks amid differences over settlement

23:21, September 15, 2010      

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A senior Palestinian official said on Wednesday that the Palestinians wish to see a real and serious progress in the direct peace talks with Israel over permanent status issues, while Israel insists that construction in the West Bank settlements will no stop.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) secretary general, told "Voice of Palestine" Radio that "the Palestinians are very much interested in achieving a real and serious progress in the peace process and in the international efforts exerted to guarantee its success."

On Wednesday, the third round of the U.S.-sponsored peace talks between the two sides began in Jerusalem, where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting at the latter's house in Jerusalem to agree on the talks agenda.

Israeli and Palestinian sources said Abbas and Netanyahu will meet together with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later in Jerusalem. The three held a meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh on Tuesday, which was also attended by U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell.

Asked about Mitchell's statements when he referred to the Jewish state of Israel, Abed Rabbo said "We don't want people to stop courtesy, all what we are interested in is to achieve a tangible progress in the talks in accordance to a clear timetable that contributes in launching real talks and brings us our rights. "

The direct peace negotiations between the two sides would tackle the permanent status issues, such as the borders of the Palestinian state, the settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees question, the issue of Jerusalem, security, water and the prisoners.

"In order to succeed the talks, we believe that the parties which sponsor the talks should take a clear stance concerning the issue of settlement's construction," said Abed Rabbo, adding "this particular issue threatens the possibility of the serious negotiations of the entire permanent status issues."

He denied earlier reports, which quoted well-informed Palestinian sources closed to the talks, that the United States, which sponsors the talks, is seeking to present a middle-ground solution to Israel and the Palestinians on the issue of Israeli construction of settlements in the West Bank.

The sources told the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency that the United States is seeking to intervene every time a crisis or a dispute erupts between the two sides, and follow the principle of the middle-ground solutions to resolve the disputes that blocks any progress in the negotiations.

According to the sources, the United States is preparing to present a proposal related to committing Israel to continuing construction in the settlements based on vertical construction and not horizontal and stop any new expansion of any settlement outside its borders.

Meanwhile, the PLO foreign relations department said in a press statement emailed to Xinhua that the international community, mainly the United States and the European Union, has to move immediately "to rescue" the direct peace negotiations.

"Israel is a major obstacle that blocks reaching a peaceful solution of the conflict, which is based on implementing the international resolutions that call for establishing an independent Palestinian state on the territories Israel occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital," said the statement.

However, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot quoted on Wednesday western officials as saying that despite the disputes between Israel and the Palestinians over the agenda of the talks and the issue of settlement, Israel is studying the idea of presenting goodwill gestures to Abbas.

The daily said that Israel would move some areas in the West Bank under the full Israeli control to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) control, and would release dozens of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and also would freeze settlement constructions outside the big settlements.

Meanwhile, the Islamist Hamas movement said earlier on Tuesday that the latest round of U.S.-backed peace talks were "humiliating and degrading."

Senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan said his movement remained vehemently opposed to the talks being carried out by Abbas, whose forces were driven from Gaza when Hamas seized power in June 2007.

"(Abbas) is not authorized to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people and any agreements produced by these negotiations will not be binding on our people," he said.

Source: Xinhua


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