Halt Settlements or No Talks, PA Says

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has reiterated that it will only join direct negotiations with Israel when Tel Aviv ends the expansion of West Bank settlements.

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Saturday that Israel must accept the borders of 1967, with approved land swaps, and end its settlement activities before the long-stalled peace talks can resume, the Ma’an news agency reported.

Erekat made the remarks during meetings with British and German diplomats in the West Bank as the United States mounts pressure on the Palestinians to shift into direct talks with Israel.

Acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas has already ruled out direct talks with Tel Aviv unless agreements are made on the key issues in the ongoing indirect "proximity talks," which the Fatah-led West Bank authority entered under US pressure, despite opposition from other West Bank factions and rival Gaza-based parties.

Erekat said that there was still time for progress in the indirect talks — mediated by US special Mideast envoy George Mitchell — which will expire in early September.

Mahmoud Abbas presented Mitchell the Palestinian position on all final status issues, based on international law, the Road Map, and the Arab Peace Initiative, Erekat explained, noting that "we did not receive any stance from the Israelis at all."

Erekat cited the Middle East Quartet’s statement of March 19 and the EU’s December 2009 statement, which both call for a two-state solution on 1967 borders, and an end to settlement construction.

By rejecting these calls, Israel is rejecting credible talks, he said.

Direct peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis were broken off in December 2008 when Israel launched a deadly onslaught on the Gaza Strip, killing at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians, in the impoverished territory.

(Press TV)

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