The acting Palestinian Authority chief says direct talks with Tel Aviv will continue even if Israel resumes the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Mahmoud Abbas had repeatedly threatened to walk away from the US-sponsored direct negotiations, launched this month in Washington, if Tel Aviv does not extend its partial settlement freeze — due to expire at the end of the month.
"I cannot say I will leave the negotiations, but it’s very difficult for me to resume talks if Prime Minister Netanyahu declares that he will continue his activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem,” Abbas told a closed meeting of Jewish American leaders in New York late Tuesday, according to a transcript of the event obtained by the Associated Press.
The U-turn will likely anger most Palestinians, who believe Abbas has backed away from his ultimatum under Washington pressure.
During the meeting, Abbas again asked Israel to extend the freeze for several months while the two sides negotiate the final borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
"Let’s demarcate the border, at that time. Israelis will be free to build in their territory and the Palestinians the same,” Abbas said.
Despite the international calls, Tel Aviv has so far refused to renew the partial 10-month freeze on new settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israeli settlement expansion is illegal under international laws.