Abbas says he's prepared to resume peace talks

PA president vows to step down the "day the first demonstration against me takes place"; says “negotiations are my preferred choice.”

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June 22, 2011 05:06
3 minute read.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mahmoud Abbas_521. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a Lebanese TV station on Monday night that he is prepared to resume peace talks with Israel if the Americans and Europeans make a good offer to the Palestinians.

“The negotiations are my preferred choice,” Abbas said in an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.

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“We have received a several offers and we have studied them and responded to them. But the Israelis didn’t accept these offers, especially the cessation of construction in the settlements.”

Abbas said he would not return to the negotiating table without agreement on terms of reference for the peace process and a freeze of settlement construction.

The Palestinians want Israel to agree in principle to the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a final agreement.

Abbas said that unless these conditions were met, he would go ahead with his plan to ask the United Nations in September to recognize a Palestinian state.

He also reiterated his opposition to an armed struggle against Israel, adding that the use of violence has wrecked havoc on the Palestinians.

“We were the ones who launched the armed struggle, and in 1988 we went to negotiations and agreed to abandon violence,” he said.

Abbas added that 116 countries have promised to recognize the Palestinian state in September, and expressed hope that US President Barack Obama would refrain from vetoing the statehood bid in the Security Council.

“Until this moment I still have hope in Obama,” he said.

Government officials in Jerusalem took note of Abbas’s comments, but said the problem was that while he says he wants negotiations, he then restates preconditions – such as a settlement freeze – that preclude those negotiations.

Furthermore, one official said, Abbas refuses to cancel the reconciliation pact with Hamas. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made it clear that he will not sit down for talks with a PA government that includes Hamas.

“Abbas says he wants talks, but then doesn’t do anything to make that happen,” the official said.

Abbas, in his interview, vowed to step down if the Palestinians ask him to leave. “I promise I won’t stay in power for one day when the first demonstration against me takes place,” he said.

“I won’t wait until four or 10 or 20 people go out to say ‘We don’t want Mahmoud Abbas.’ I will quit before they say that.”

Asked about the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation accord between Fatah and Hamas, Abbas stressed that he had the right to name the prime minister of a new unity government.

He said that his preferred candidate was the incumbent, Salam Fayyad.

Despite the reconciliation pact, Hamas and Fatah have thus far failed to reach agreement on the identity of the prime minister of the proposed unity government.

Hamas’s refusal to accept Fayyad remains the main obstacle to the formation of the government, Hamas and Fatah officials said this week.

“I have the right to name the prime minister and yes, he’s Salam Fayyad,” Abbas said in the interview. “The new unity government under Fayyad would not have a political agenda.

“It would be a purely technocratic government of independent figures.”

Voicing concern over the international community’s threat to suspend financial aid in protest against the Hamas-Fatah agreement, Abbas said that the PA was paying monthly salaries to 77,000 civil servants in the Gaza Strip, as well as covering the cost of water, electricity, fuel, and health and education services.

Hamas, meanwhile, is continuing to receive funds from Iran, he added.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.


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