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Palestinian official acknowledges Kerry makes slight progress in peace process


08:11, July 01, 2013

RAMALLAH/GAZA, June 30 (Xinhua) -- A senior Palestinian official acknowledged Sunday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made slight progress in restarting peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel while Islamic Hamas movement in Gaza along with other factions urged rejection to Kerry's initiative in this regard.

"Kerry, who held marathon meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on resuming the stalled peace talks made some slight progress, but fell short of any breakthrough," the Palestinian state-run news agency "Wafa" quoted Nabil Abu Rdeineh, an aide to Abbas, as saying.

He said during Sunday's meeting, Abbas reiterated preconditions for restarting talks with Israel -- establishing an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital and the release of the Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

The senior official, who attended the meeting, said Kerry briefed Abbas on his efforts, contacts and meetings with the Israeli side on resuming the talks, adding that the U.S. diplomat pledged to carry on with them to follow through on other outstanding issues in this regard.

"Some real progress has been made but still we have other issues that we have to work on," Kerry told reporters after his meeting with Abbas, which was also attended by Saeb Erekat, Palestinian chief peace negotiator and Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) executive committee.

Moreover, Kerry has cancelled his trip to the United Arab Emirates so as to gain more time to work on bridging the gap between Israel and the Palestinians.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians came to a halt in October 2010 over the Israeli government's decision to renew Jewish settlement building after a brief freeze. The Palestinians have since then linked the resumption of the talks with a complete cessation of settlements construction.

Abbas, who succeeded in upgrading of Palestinians' representation at the UN to that of a non-member observer state last year, warned Israel and the international community that if the peace process remained stalled, he will use other diplomatic and "peaceful" popular options, referring to similar membership bids with other world bodies.

The Palestinians want Israel to recognize the U.S.-backed principle of the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, stop its settlement activities, and release the Palestinian prisoners detained before the Oslo Peace Accords were signed in 1993.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli Radio reported that Kerry had made some slight progress during his shuttle meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas, adding that Netanyahu still insisted on unconditioned resumption of the peace talks with the Palestinians.

When Kerry began his efforts to bring the two sides to the negotiating table on March 20, he asked for eight weeks to present a comprehensive plan in this regard. But after five rounds of marathon meetings and contacts with both sides, he failed to achieve any breakthrough.

Accusing the United States of blackmailing the Palestinians, the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, called Sunday on Abbas not to accept Kerry's the terms on resuming the negotiations with Israel.

"Hamas is warning Abbas not to go down into the illusion of the absurd negotiations," Hamas said in a communique emailed to reporters, adding "we consider Kerry's efforts to resume talks very dangerous because they aim at empowering the Israeli occupation."

Left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's (PFLP) leader Jamil Mezher told Xinhua that "it is clear that the Americans and the Israelis are exerting heavy pressure on President Abbas to resume the talks, and we tell him not to resume it because this would serve the interests of Israel."

"Kerry doesn't have anything new that serves the national interests of the Palestinians, it is just an attempt to gain more time to serve the interests of Israel and its settlement activities in the Palestinian territories," argued Mezher.

In Gaza, Nafez Azza, a leader of the less influential Islamic Jihad Group said America doesn't have any good initiative to help the Palestinians regain their stolen legitimate rights and it can' t put any kind of pressure on the Zionists to end their occupation of the Palestinian lands."

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