Fri, October 09, 2009
World > Middle East

Palestinians despair over resuming talks before settlement freeze

2009-10-09 22:14:02 GMT2009-10-10 06:14:02 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly

RAMALLAH, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- A senior Palestinian official on Friday warned that the U.S. attempts to resume the stalled peace negotiations with Israel before the latter halts settlement activities in the Palestinian territories, including the natural growth, would leave the Palestinians in despair.

Jibril Rajoub, member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Fatah party's central committee said in a press statement sent to reporters, accused the Administration of U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday that "it began to deviate from the terms of reference of the International peace."

"Israel and everyone should know that peace negotiations with Israel would never be resumed before approving all these references. Halting settlement, in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and recognizing the vision of the two-state solution, are our conditions," said Rajoub.

Abbas and George Mitchell, the U.S. peace envoy to the Middle East held on Friday talks in Ramallah and discussed the stalled peace process. but Mitchell did not say whether he managed to convince Israel to halt settlement, while only focusing on the resumption of the peace talks.

"We discussed our common vision of a viable and independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton are deeply committed to that," Mitchell told reporters in a joint news conference in Ramallah with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Erekat told reporters that President Abbas reiterated to Mitchell on the Palestinian stance that Israel should be committed to the Roadmap plan for peace in the Middle East.

"If Israel wants to resume the peace talks, it should first express clear commitment to implementing the roadmap plan, which include stopping settlement and be committed to the two-sate solution," said Erekat.

Mitchell held earlier talks on Friday with hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Netanyahu office said in a statement after the meeting that it was constructive and would help the peace process.

Mitchell's meeting with Abbas in Ramallah is the first of its kind after the three-way summit held in September in New York. Mitchell is trying to bridge the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians by finding a compromise of halting Israeli settlement in the Palestinian territories.

"They (Obama and Clinton) have made our policy clear, the only realistic solution to this conflict is for the aspiration of both sides to be met through two states living side by side in peace and security," said Mitchell.

He added U.S looks forward to see "Palestinians and Israelis live with stability and prosperity alike." He didn't say if he has achieved any deal with Netanyahu on freezing settlement in the West Bank.

"Earlier today, in his public comments, President Obama specifically reaffirmed his commitment to that objective -- we do not underestimate the difficulties, for us or for the parties," said Mitchell.

He said that "this will be good for the Palestinians, good for Israelis, and good for all of the people of this region," said Mitchell, adding "it's in the interest of the United States as well."

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) insisted that it wouldonly resume the peace negotiations if Israel halts settlement, including the natural growth and recognize the two-state solution.

"We all have an obligation to do all we can to help achieve the goal of the comprehensive peace in the Middle East," said Mitchell.

Meanwhile, Erekat said that "this region doesn't need more wars, and the one who seeks for peace should compel Israel to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories, which began in 1967."

"This is the key for peace and security in the region. There is no danger on the region except the continuation of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories," said Erekat.

Erekat also said that President Abbas briefed Mitchell on the recent Israeli security measures against al-Aqsa Mosque in the old city of Jerusalem, mainly preventing Moslem prayers from reaching the mosque."

Mitchell arrived in Israel on Wednesday night, where he held talks with Israeli defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday and with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and President Abbas on Friday.

Meanwhile, official Palestinian sources, who spoke in condition of anonymity, told Xinhua that President Abbas rejected the U.S. demand to immediately resume the peace negotiations with Israel without any preconditions.

Khalil Shahin, a West Bank-based political analyst told Xinhua that the U.S. attempts to resume the peace talks without reaching an agreement on halting settlement "would not lead to any success of the peace process," adding "this will be considered a dramatic change in the current U.S. stances."

"This change in the political stances would reflect a not serious American position in the content of exerting pressure on Israel to abide by its commitments towards the peace process and the success of the peace negotiations," said Shahin. "if this is true, it will be so depressing."

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